Gratitude: How to Create Your Own Ritual
Begin and end your day with gratitude. This is nothing new especially if you've dabbled in or been actively practicing mindfulness. Stick with me, I have three challenges and a cool way to make this an engaging activity you can do with others.
Gratitude is a practice I’ve done off and on over the years. If I am in a constant state of frustration and stress, I return to this practice. It’s ideal to do it every day, but I’ll be real with you. I don’t.
GASP! Maybe I'm not supposed to admit that I'm human. After all so many websites share their thoughts and there is a perception that they are perfect. Let me just spare everyone those thoughts. I am so far away from perfect, it ain't even funny. I will always keep it real. I digress. Hopping off my soapbox now.
When we make something a consistent practice, it becomes engrained in who we be and how we show up in this world. Gratitude is a practice. A practice that we may start and stop over time, but if we keep pushing through can be a beautiful ritual that can bring silver linings during the storms that life can bring.
Grateful for the Big and Small
Note that doesn't say Biggie Smalls (i.e. the rapper from the 90's). It's talking about being grateful for the big and the small things in our life. When I first started my gratitude practice, I wrote down all the typical things most people are grateful for in their life.
Most of us are grateful for our family, spouse, kids, friends, home, job, vehicle, a roof over our head, clean water, food on the table, etc. These are things we even take for granted because so many people in this world are living without. It's important to recognize that we are truly blessed especially living in our first-world bubble of instant-anything and everything.
If we keep going with this practice, we will get to a point where we find another side of gratitude.
We become grateful for the smallest things.
- A child’s laughter
- The reflection from the sunset bouncing off the water
- The breeze on your skin on a hot day
- The warmth of a blanket fresh out of the dryer (and that we even have a washer and dryer)
- The fact that we have two arms, hands, feet and legs. That we have ears to hear, eyes to see, a nose to smell and a mouth to taste.
We are grateful for the smallest touch. We see beauty everywhere. We are in the present moment and still grateful even when life may not be exactly how we want it to be. No matter what we are going through, we can still find someone or something in our lives to be grateful.
The Gratitude Challenge
Here's the challenge. First, I’m challenging myself to keep one running list. I want to do this all in one journal. Instead of five different journals, I start then stopped over the years. Am I the only that has done that? If I write this post and I don't do it myself then that's out of integrity for me. I want to follow through with my word so it all starts with me. I am challenging myself to do this and I hope you will join me.
Think about it. If you wrote down 1 to 3 items every day you would have anywhere from 365 to 1,095 items on your list by the end of the year. That adds up! If you are feeling a little overwhelmed. Good. Sometimes when things feel like that a little iffy it can be an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.
What's the format of the challenge?
It's dealer's choice. Feel free to pick your format whether it’s hand-written in a journal, on your phone or computer. Maybe it's in audio or video format if that's your thing. I kick it old school with a pen and paper. Do what works best for you. The goal is to find a format that you will keep you consistent with this practice.
The Dinner Challenge
Here's another challenge for you. The next time you are out to brunch or dinner with friends, I challenge you to do this exercise:
Go around the table and have each person say one thing that they are grateful for on that particular day.
We often get in a rut with our conversations. The job, family, kids, pets, the hot guys at Whole Foods, latest book or show on Netflix. Sometimes it can feel as if you are saying the same thing all the time. This adds another dimension.
For an added kick of fun, have your waiter judge the answers. Have him pick what he/she feels is the most authentic answer. Then the rest of the group has to buy the winner a drink, dessert or pay for their meal.
The point is to make gratitude fun. Plus, you'll probably learn more about each other in the process especially if you make it a regular thing. Try it at your next dinner party too!
The Gratitude Keepsake
This can be a great practice to do solo, with your family or loved ones. It's great to see how we evolve over time when we look back on old journals to see what we were going through.
If you want to take this another step further. Create a family gratitude journal and have everyone add to it each day.
It’s a great practice to teach your kids and would be a special keepsake you can pass down from generation to generation.
Oops, I did it again.
What happens if you skip a day? Well, nothing happens. It's inevitable that life will happen. You may get out of the habit.
We often start things strong and then forget about them or we are "too tired". Look, I've been there so I get it. There will always be those days.
Let's acknowledge this right out the gate. No shame. No guilt. We are being honest and real. Let's admit that there will probably be a day or ten that we don't do it. We may go strong for two weeks and then forget for a month. Haven't we all been there?
Since we know it will happen, have a game plan. Remove any guilt or shame and jump back into it. Over time and as we practice, it will become a habit.
The trick is not to beat ourselves up when we stop. Acknowledge it and then get back to it. It's really that simple.
I hope this gave you some ideas on how to approach gratitude from a different perspective. This is a huge topic so would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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