You sit down to write your gratitude list, put your pen to paper (or finger to mobile device, whatever best suits you) and then… nothing. *Crickets* You can’t think of a single thing that happened to you today that you are grateful for. Ugh… I’ve been there.
BTW, props to you for (thinking about) writing a gratitude list! Can I get a holllaaa! Pat yourself on the back, since I can’t do that from behind this laptop :)
Anyway, back on topic. Having no gratitude inspiration happens to the best of us. I’ve been practicing gratitude for over three years and, believe me, I still have days where finding things to be grateful for is simply IMPOSSIBLE. Luckily, when that happens I can fall back on my most successful strategies, experiences, and practices I've developed over the years. I've turned those strategies into a comprehensive, actionable, step-by-step guide called Growing Gratitude. Learn more about Growing Gratitude here.
But first, let me tell you a little something about my experiences with practicing gratitude. After that I’ll share eight tips that make practicing gratitude a lot easier.
PIN THAT, BABY!
The reason I’ve persevered in my gratitude practice - looking back on it - is that it’s so quick and easy to do. I fire up my laptop, write down three things I am grateful for on a pre-existing graphic template and upload the graphic to my Instagram page. Et voilá, my gratitude ritual over and done with in less than one minute.
Changing your behavior and learning new habits is HARD. I’ve learned that the hard way. Use baby steps. Start once a week. Do your gratitude practice first thing in the morning when your partner, family, or roommates aren’t awake yet. Or… do it when your family or roommates ARE awake so that they can hold you accountable.
Most of the time I write down things on my gratitude list that have happened that day. This way I force myself to pay attention to the present moment. But sometimes I have a realisation about something that has happened before. That’s also something to be grateful for and, for me, something worthy of sharing.
Another thing I’ve learned is to change my perspective every once in a while. By looking beyond the surface I can see so much more than I’ve initially thought possible.
You can be grateful for the tree in your backyard, because it’s gorgeously green. That’s fine. But can you think of other reasons to be grateful for that beautiful tree? That the tree contributes to a beautiful scenery, that it shades you from the sun and protects you from the rain, that it can house more than a few bird nests, that it’s an example of perseverance because a tree literally and figuratively weathers any storm, that it’s an example of hope because - admittedly- a tree loses its leaves every fall but it also grows new leaves every spring. Maybe you can think of better examples than these.
Nevertheless, there are days that it just doesn’t work, that I have a bad day and I’m cranky. On days like that it takes me more than half an hour to think of three things I am grateful for. Cut yourself some slack. You're doing the best you can and your best is more than good enough. #nobrainer
Reminder: You can find free gratitude journals in the library. Get access here.
And now, for the eight tips that make practicing gratitude A LOT easier…
(P.S. You'll find even more tips and strategies in Growing Gratitude. In this ebook I'm showing you the exact steps I've taken to lift my mood, become more positive, and change my perspective for the better. And I'm going to show you how much gratitude can positively influence and benefit your life and which type of gratitude practice is best for you.)
Gratitude becomes easier with a lot of practice. If you are anything like me there will be days when you think of a hundred reasons why you absolutely, definitely can’t practice gratitude. Isn’t cleaning the living room or watching an episode of Game of Thrones (and then another one and another one, damn you Jon Snow!) much more important? Waiting for that resistance to pass is useless. Just do it.
2. Pick a fixed time during the day
You can to choose to write your gratitude list in the morning, after you’ve just woken up, or at night, right before you go to bed. I write my gratitude list after dinner. I’ve been doing that for a while and I’ve gotten used to it. It’s become a routine. Routine = good!
Do it. Pick up your phone or notebook or gratitude journal and start with “I am grateful for…”. Maybe you find yourself halting right there. Just wait a few moments, even if it feels uncomfortable. The words will come.
When you really, truly, honestly can’t remember a single thing that you are grateful for, use one of these tricks. Pick a random letter from the alphabet, the letter W for example, and name all the things you’re grateful for that start with the letter W. Or look to your right and write down all the things you see, things you may take for granted. Or look inward. Which personal qualities can you be proud of? Which character traits can you be grateful for?
Related post: How to practice gratitude: 8 tried and tested tips
4. Feel it
There are days when you’ll write something down and you don’t feel a single shred of gratitude. That’s OK. Keep writing. A positive thought or feeling WILL appear.
5. Practice gratitude in the moment
Take a little breathing space during the day, be quiet and think “I am grateful”. Try to be fully present for a routine action like cooking. These moments of attention will come to you when you sit down to write your gratitude list.
6. Share gratitude
Find a partner, friend, or neighbor you can practice gratitude with. Or start a blog or website like me. :) Together you’re stronger and the accountability gives you just the push you need to write your gratitude list on days when it’s too difficult or you’re too tired.
7. Don’t stop when it’s working!
When you notice that you have more energy or you have a more positive outlook, DON’T STOP! When I took a vacation two years ago I didn't feel like writing my gratitude lists. It felt like a chore. What happened was, was that I lost the routine I'd had built up. During my vacation (I was in Bali! #heaven) I felt great, but when I got home I just didn't have the motivation to pick up my gratitude habit. Long story short, eventually I got back on track.
The moral of this story: Don't let yourself get off track. Keep going. No excuses and no taking breaks. Except...
8. Don’t beat yourself up over it
Growl, grumble and mutter when you feel like it. Write “I am grateful for writing my gratitude list” three times when that's all you can do. And every once and a while, skip a day when you feel like it. I do too.
PIN THIS HANDY LI'L INFOGRAPHIC!
In case you're ever in a gratitude slump, I created a free printable checklist. Grab it and use it as a prompt or reminder whenever you feel your motivation waning or can't think of a thing to feel grateful for. Just click the image below.