When my son Lucas was four we did an experiment...
Each night during his bedtime we talked about what we were grateful for, wrote it on a slip of paper, and put it into a Gratitude Jar. We did this routine over the course of thirty days.
In a nutshell, this experience completely transformed my life.
(Watch the video here: The True Story of How Practicing Gratitude Changed My Life)
Before using a Gratitude Jar, I was the person who fixated on the negative and went through each day focusing on all the things that irritated me.
By late afternoon I was miserable.
I would find any excuse to be alone in the kitchen while making my family dinner so I could drink generous amounts of wine.
All in all, I was disenchanted.
Practicing gratitude was not something I’d ever done before, but decided to try when it was suggested to me by a mentor.
She told me her own gratitude practice was hugely important to her happiness and well-being.
I thought practicing gratitude sounded like a good way to connect with my oldest son, who I had been feeling distant from since his baby brother had been born eight months ago.
So, I began thirty days of gratitude with my four-year-old.
I noticed changes almost immediately.
Every night I wanted to come up with a really good gratitude to share with my son, so I paid close attention all day for what that might be.
Being on the lookout for things to be grateful for was a lot different than focusing on the things that annoyed me - which I had been a pro at doing.
I realized there was a whole lot around me I had completely taken for granted.
Miracles are all around us, once we have the eyes to see them.
Simple things like the sun, delicious food, a good night’s sleep, holding my husband’s hand, a movie that made me laugh out loud, my littlest one cooing peacefully in his crib, and on and on.
There were so many things right in front of me I had never given the time of day before, but which now deserved my attention.
From seeing the world through the eyes of gratitude, I noticed I started feeling something I hadn’t felt in long time:
I realized I’d never felt quite so happy and content before. At least not to the point where I actually noticed.
Then, as I started feeling better - things started happening that signaled my new way of thinking was actually causing the world around me to change.
Small changes, huge results.
All the areas I had been struggling in began to magically reverse themselves:
- I lost that extra twenty five pounds I had been lugging around with me for years (by being grateful about the body that had birthed two healthy children instead of hating on my “mom belly”.)
- I got a promotion and raise which dramatically improved my money situation (by being grateful for the fact that I even had a job and food on the table instead of whining how broke I was and hated my job)
- I quit drinking completely because I didn’t need to anymore (I was happy.)
I have no doubt all these incredible things came to be because of my new, grateful mindset.
I learned focusing on what you don’t want brings more of it, while focusing on what you already have and give gratitude for, brings more and more things be grateful for.
And everything becomes a blessing.
How do you practice gratitude? Here's some ideas:
There are several ways to practice gratitude, and I’ve included a few of my favorite practices below.
For best results, I suggest doing any one of these practices for thirty days, then continuing longer if you feel inspired.
To me, thirty days is the magic number because it’s the perfect amount of time to turn it from being a practice into a permanent habit.
Use a Gratitude Jar
- Find a special container to store your gratitudes. There are many beautiful glass gratitude jars for sale online. Or, you can use a mason jar, old coffee can, or whatever you have on hand.
- Cut up several slips of blank paper.
- At the end of each day, reflect on what you’re most grateful for.
- Write it down on your slip of paper and put it in your gratitude jar.
- Put the jar in a prominent spot of your home to serve as a visual reminder your blessings.
- EXTRA CREDIT: Read The Gratitude Jar: A Simple Guide to Creating Miracles about how using a gratitude jar helped me go from rock bottom, to finding inner peace.
Write in a Gratitude Journal
- Find a notebook or blank journal and write down the five things you’re most grateful for at the end of each day (research supports practicing gratitude at the end of the day results in better sleep.)
- EXTRA CREDIT: Get a guided gratitude journal like this one on Amazon and make the commitment to complete all the practices inside.
Send a Gratitude Letter
- Get a stack of thank you cards or stationery (blank paper works too), and write a letter to someone telling them how thankful you are for them and why.
- Mail the letter or deliver by hand.
- EXTRA CREDIT: Read the book, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life about a man named John Kralik who transformed his life by writing a thank-you letter to someone every day for a year.
Make this year the best one yet by spending time in gratitude every day.
I promise it will be the best New Year's resolution you ever make.