We often save special occasions, such as Thanksgiving or Birthdays, to practice gratitude but research shows that those who try to practice gratitude everyday actually feel the benefits in a much different way. We assume that gratitude is like a euphoric state of mind that can only be manifested when we surround ourselves with ones we love, but we forget we can manifest this feeling within us in quiet moments of solitude as well. And gratitude doesn’t just have to revolve around the people we surround ourselves with. We can be grateful for indulging in chocolate cake, or a very healthy meal. We can be grateful for spouses that forgive our outburst or who don’t outburst at all. We can be grateful for healthy bodies and healthy children or recovering from an unhealthy experience. It’s all about how we frame gratitude in our minds.
Let’s look at how we can try to bring more gratitude into our daily lives.
According to Yale University, gratitude acknowledges a connection to more than yourself. This connection can be seen in ‘many spiritual traditions worldwide, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and East Asian religions, that when we contemplate our place in the intricate, interdependent network of life, we feel wonder and joy that ultimately allow us to express thanks for the deep realization’.
While this idea might seem foreign when thinking about your own life, try to bring it closer to your home. Instead of thinking about the intricate nature of the entire world just yet, think about the way your family is growing, or will grow. There are days and weeks that can feel overwhelming and simply unbearable. This can include sleepless nights with a baby, rough days with twins, or increased fighting with a spouse from a new addition to the family. It’s all normal.
Within these rough times it can feel impossible to drag out of the dark, something that brightens the day. This is when practicing gratitude can help lighten the load. Think of gratitude as a tool that you can utilize to chip away at the heaviness of the day.
There are a few ways to practice gratitude.
Some prefer to take a few moments as soon as they wake up and begin journaling 3 things they are grateful for. It can be good sleep, a paid off home, food in the fridge, baby slept more than 3 hours straight, didn’t fight with spouse, health, clearing debt, put health first, ate well, and more. Gratitude needs to be personal for you to begin cultivating it. Having a gratitude journal can also help keep you on track to write daily and look back on things you’ve been grateful for in the past. Although not necessary, many people take time to decorate and personalize their gratitude journal.
Another way to cultivate gratitude is to notice your surroundings and begin to focus on things you may be taking for granted. One exercise could be to sit in the park, or on the train, in your living room, or anywhere outside and begin focusing on what is around you. This exercise is like mindfulness in that it pushes you to think outside yourself while also being very in-tune within yourself. Thinking of ways that strangers treat you positively can also help lighten the environment for you. For instance, did someone hold the door for you, help you pick up things on the street, was the cashier at the store very nice and look you in the eyes? It seems like small things but when they all add up they can fill some positive space in the mind and heart. We often take for granted the choices we see around us. Noticing that someone took a moment to be positive is important because it helps build that same feeling within us. When we acknowledge this in other people, we also help solidify within them that their choices are positively affecting those around us.
Which leads us to our next way of cultivating gratitude, expressing it.
While journaling and observing may feel good for an individual, there’s something important and gratifying about expressing our appreciation for another person, situation, animal, or even ourselves. Think about times when someone has thanked you or written you a letter. This small yet personal act can resonate with you for a very long time. One way to continue cultivating this feeling is to express your own thanks in a personal letter or note to someone else. Even if it was from several years ago, take a moment to write some reflections.
Expressing gratitude helps us not only connect with others but allows a moment of clarity within ourselves as to what we needed and how we learned to recognize and appreciate that help.
The idea of cultivating gratitude is to help increase positive emotions, reduce negative feelings, improve sleep, strengthen resilience, and encourage humility. This slow and steady process can help improve your relationships and more importantly increase positive emotion during tough postpartum situations. While it’s not something that happens overnight, it is something that doesn’t need hours of the day. So, start small and stay consistent.
For a free gratitude journaling template click below.