The Attitude of Gratitude

gratitude3At this time of year, everyone is talking about gratitude. Some of my friends on Facebook are even posting about their experiences during an exercise focusing on 30 days of gratitude. And I’ve noticed that when I slow down enough to do so, I actually remember that the Thanksgiving holiday is all about giving thanks.

I believe, as many of you do, that gratitude is not something we should reserve solely for this time of year. Rather, it is an attitude and a practice we can adopt at all times. We can live in gratitude any time and all the time if we adopt certain habits and shift the perspectives we hold on daily life events.

Even so, I hesitated to write this blog post since talk of gratitude is so pervasive at this time of year. I do not usually like to jump on the bandwagon and write about things that everyone else is writing about, but as a coach, this topic is so near and dear to me that I could not pass up a chance to blog about it.

Regardless of the season, when I am working with a client who is feeling down or stuck, I often suggest gratitude exerices as an antidote. For example, I frequently recommend writing in a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is exactly what it sounds like – a place where you write down things for which you are grateful.

The practice of journaling about things for which you are grateful, when done regularly, is a great way to amplify positivity. By journaling daily and jotting down at least five things for which you are grateful, not only do you focus on the good things happening in your life, but you may also find that your antenna is up throughout the day so that you notice things to be grateful for more easily and often. This typically leads to an attitude shift toward positivity.

I suggest journaling shortly before bedtime so that when you lie down for the night, your focus is on the good things – the things for which you are thankful. I find this practice helps me sleep better and have more positive dreams.

I do get push back from clients who find that gratitude journaling is a habit that often takes a bit of time to cement, but like any other habit, once you get it going, the rewards are many. I am also often asked by clients who are attempting gratitude journaling what they can do if they have a really terrible day. Without being Pollyanna, in my experience, there is always something to be grateful for even if it’s your comfy bed and the fact that the terrible day is now over. We can be grateful for big things – a new job, a clean medical report – and we can also be grateful for small things – a tasty meal, a funny episode of a favorite TV show, an excited greeting from our beloved pet. Anything that warms your heart can be on your list.

Another technique for amplifying feelings of gratitude is to share something you are grateful for with friends or your loved ones. Over the years, my family has done this at Thanksgiving dinner, and it also works anytime you are dining with someone else or a group. Go around the table and ask each person what he or she is grateful for in that moment. It might be gratitude that you are together at dinner, and it might be something completely different that leads to a robust conversation. Either way, sharing gratitude makes it more real and palpable.

Finally, it is possible to find more gratitude through a perspective shift. When I am stuck in traffic due to an accident, my first inclination is to be frustrated and annoyed. However, I can consciously shift from those feelings to feelings of gratitude if I focus on the fact that I am safe in my car and was not involved in the accident that is snarling traffic. Similarly, if I find that I am disappointed that a friend had to cancel our get-together because of a scheduling conflict, I can shift my focus and be grateful for her friendship and for the extra time that gives me to do something else I enjoy.

Although talk of gratitude is everywhere in this busy holiday season, it can turn into white noise unless we consciously focus on activities and attitudes that make our feelings of thankfulness more real. Starting these practices now, in the midst of the craziness of this season, can have meaningful results for your experience of the holidays and for your year to come.

What are you grateful for? Do you have any practices or habits around gratitude that you would recommend to others? I’d love to hear from you!