While watching Brené Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday this weekend, I was reminded of the remarkable link between joy and gratitude.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection she writes, “Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice. And both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us.”
As I was rereading the chapter about the connection between joy, gratitude and vulnerability, I found this quote:
Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. –Marianne Williamson
This is what I believe. Absolutely.
Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop or remaining convinced our joy will disappear the moment we acknowledge it, we need to be grateful as hell for all the wonder, victories, small moments and grace in our life.
So how do you practice gratitude, outside of the nightly gratitude journal or blessings list? Here are some new ideas!
9 New Ways to Practice Gratitude
1. Keep a Daily Calendar of Gratitude
Instead of keeping a traditional gratitude journal — create a daily calendar that you update each year with one thing for which you are grateful. Each year adds another layer of thankfulness and allows you to savor your past.
2. Mark Anniversaries with Milestones & Predictions
On your wedding or work anniversary, your birthday or any other momentous occasion — start a new tradition. Write a letter celebrating the highlights of your year and your predictions for the next year. Seal the letter and open it together on your next anniversary.
My husband and I have done this since we were dating and have a stack of envelopes to reread each year. (We still don’t own a sail boat, but according to our predictions, it’s coming!)
3. Share Gratitude at the Dinner Table
Grace is lovely as well, but if you’re gathering a mix of people with different beliefs, sharing one “gratitude” from that day or week is a beautiful way to connect before you share a meal. I love doing this every night, not just at dinner parties or Thanksgiving.
4. Express your Thankfulness for the Hard Stuff
We all know life can be messy. Instead of regretting your mistakes or remaining caught up in the ways you were wronged, take a moment to think about what the challenges have taught you. What can you be grateful for? What lessons have you learned? What do you now know about yourself? How have the hardships served you?
5. Thank the People behind the Service
Every day there are people in the background of our life — the barista, the public groundsman, the grocer, the banker. Take a minute to ask their name and then sincerely thank them for the ease they bring to your life. Without them, would you be able to do what you do? I think not.
(I know I could never function without someone caffeinating me!)
Show some gratitude for the human beings who make your life run smoothly.
6. Write a Letter of Gratitude
Have a teacher, coach, co-worker, old friend or mentor who has made a difference in your life? When is the last time you told them? Sit down and write a handwritten note of thanks for the difference they have made in your life. Bonus points if you can deliver it and read it out loud to them!
7. Start Girl Time with Celebrations not Bitching
It’s such a nice feeling to trust your gal pals with your crazy boss stories or hideous date experiences… But before you dive into the complaints and snark, make a sincere effort to share the highlights of your last week. It’s not bragging, it’s sharing the positive experiences that mattet to you so that you can celebrate together.
8. Say “Thank You” for the Mundane
Sometimes we get so used to our partner, our mama or our kids doing the things they’ve always done — making breakfast, taking the trash out, sending us surprise packages, dressing themselves in the morning — that we forget to appreciate these small gestures. Don’t take those tiny moments for granted! Start with a small, specific and frequent, “Thank you.”
9. Appreciate a Force Bigger than Yourself
Next time you are outside, instead of checking your iPhone or rushing to get back to your real life — enjoy the moment. Raise your face to the sky and give thanks to the Universe that has created snowflakes, streaks of sunshine that make their way between skyscrapers, sunny beaches, forests full of pine trees, autumn leaves or gently rushing streams. Nature is an incredible presence that we can easily overlook.
Exercise your gratitude muscle by offering a quick prayer of thanks to something greater than yourself.
What expressions of gratitude do you practice?
What other suggestions do you have? I want to hear them!