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Gratitude Isn’t Just for Thanksgiving

This article is by Ali Katz from AtoZenMeditation.com

We all make a very big deal about being grateful on Thanksgiving, as we should. We have the day off, we are surrounded by loved ones, and we are enjoying a delicious meal together. Sounds pretty good to me! But what happens when the holiday is over?

Practicing gratitude enriches our lives in many ways all year long, like making us more humble, more content, less judgmental, more encouraging, less of a gossip, and it even makes us healthier by boosting our immune system.

When we practice gratitude we are putting our attention on positive things in our life, which makes them feel bigger than our problems. There is nothing too big or too small to feel grateful for. I think there is a misconception that practicing gratitude is only for the big, profound things in life like our health and a roof over our heads. Those are for sure things to be grateful for, and I am every day, but gratitude can extend to every part of your life as well. Goals made at a game, good grades, your favorite foods, a great book, or maybe an upcoming family vacation are wonderful things to express gratitude for.

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Click to Tweet: When we’re grateful we’re putting our attention on positive things, which makes them feel bigger than problems. @AliKatz76 @jenilyn8705

There are many simple ways to bring gratitude into your every day:

Open your eyes and say thank you

I try to remember to make my first words of the day “thank you.” When I open my eyes I silently give thanks for another opportunity to put my best foot forward and live my very best life.

Keep a simple gratitude journal

I suggest people keep a small pad next to their toothbrush and when you brush your teeth in the morning and evening, write down one thing you are grateful for.

If you don’t like to write, put a sticky note on your mirror that says “gratitude” and whenever you look at it think of something you are grateful for.

Have a family gratitude journal

My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is when everyone goes around the table and says what they are thankful for. It is such a special, bonding experience to share as a family. So why not do it more? Place a small journal on your dining table, and at family meals record what everyone is grateful for that day. Include the big things and the little things!

Put a reminder on your phone

As important as gratitude is to me, I need to be reminded to pause during my busy day for a gratitude break. Every day at 3 pm a reminder goes off on my phone that says “gratitude is my attitude.” I stop what I am doing, take a few long, deep breaths and think of something I am grateful for.

Shift your perspective

Even in the midst of trying times I think about what I am learning and how this experience is helping me to grow as a person. Doing this turns many challenges into wins.

Make a stress/gratitude list

When I am feeling overwhelmed I often take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle creating two columns. One side is for stress and the other gratitude. I begin by making a list of everything I am stressed about. Valid or ridiculous, I include it all. When I am finished I then move to the gratitude side and write two things I am grateful for for each item on the stress side. So if I am stressed about ten things, I will write 20 that I am grateful for.

This does two things. The first is that it acknowledges our stress. We don’t want to pretend it isn’t there or sweep it under the rug. It is important to admit how we are feeling in the moment. But then we have an beautiful visual to see that even though we have stress in our lives, we have so much more to be grateful for.

I believe that the more we practice gratitude, the more the Universe gives us to be grateful for, so get started today!

Ali Katz is a self-care coach for women, a meditation expert and author of the best-selling book “Hot Mess to Mindful Mom.” Visit her at www.atozenmeditation.com and be sure to grab her 8 best tips for sleep!

How to Create a Gratitude List that Actually Helps You

Back when in my late teens to early 20s I started reading some of my very first self-help books.  Though the advice varied from book to book, there was one bit of advice that seemed pretty consistent: the need to be grateful in order to have a happy, successful and fulfilling life.

And so, in order to practice gratitude, many of these books always recommended to start a gratitude list.  One of the first books I read that recommended this, instructed to write down 5 things that you are grateful for every day.  The author proclaimed that by doing this it will “completely transform your life”.

So at the age of 18 or 19, I took up the challenge to begin writing down five things that I was grateful for every day.  Inside I thought, How hard can it be?  This book makes it sound super easy!  I’ve been journaling every night before I go to bed since I was like 10, so this should be an easy new habit to take up!

The first night came and I wrote down my five things that I was grateful for.  Then the second day came… and then the third day.  By the fourth day things started to get tough.  I couldn’t think of anything new that I was grateful for.  I just kept thinking of stuff that I wrote already.  But I stretched it a little bit to keep my routine going.

Needless to say, after one week had passed of my new habit of writing my daily gratitude list I was pretty well burned out.  I felt like I had completely run out of things to write down and, frankly, I hadn’t noticed any kind of “transformation” that these authors had proclaimed would happen.

So, I stopped — and from that point on whenever I saw stuff about writing “gratitude lists” I thought to myself, Yeah, good idea — in theory.

But then recently I was reading a book that explained this whole “gratitude list” thing a bit differently.  In this book, it was the author instructed that when you write a gratitude list to be very specific.  This made so much more sense to me and by taking this approach it has made it actually possible and beneficial for me to write gratitude lists!

This revelation then led me to start writing down things that I was grateful for that really truly resonated with me.  The process then led me to other little realizations on how to write gratitude lists that were truly beneficial to me.

So how can we write our gratitude lists so that they are more effective?  Here are a couple tips:

Avoid writing all the stuff that you feel you should be thankful for, but you’re really not.

So if you feel like you should say that you are thankful for your job, but you really truly aren’t, then don’t!  Many times we do this because our parents or grandparents or whoever told us when we were kids that we should always be thankful for these basic things.  And so, if we don’t say we are grateful for these things then we feel ashamed and start to think we are a bad person.

As a result, we are just writing the things we are grateful for on auto-pilot and the results we get from writing our lists feel just kinda “meh”.

So if you’re honestly not thankful for your job or for your living situation — then don’t write it down!  Strive to be honest with yourself.

When you write a gratitude list, focus on what you are grateful for from that specific day.

The problem for me when I first tried out writing gratitude lists was that the things I wrote down were things that I was simply just “grateful for in general”.  It never correlated to what I was specific for that day.

So at the end of the day when you sit down and write your gratitude list, reflect on all the  moments that were really gratifying or that really helped you.  Maybe it was a sweet comment that made you smile or the super tasty meal you had for lunch.  It could even be the simple fact that rush hour traffic really was practically nonexistent in the morning — or, on the flip side, maybe you enjoyed the traffic jam cause it gave you time to be alone with yourself and reflect and that’s a moment you’re grateful for.

Whatever it is focus on the specific moments and events from your day that you are really grateful for — and the more specific the better!  So saying, “I’m grateful for smelling the fresh forest from my hike today” is so much better than saying, “I’m grateful that I went on a hike today”.  You see the difference?

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Take action now!

In celebration of Thanksgiving this week in the US, share 5 things that you are grateful for from things that have happened today or yesterday in the comments below!  And remember: Be specific and be honest!