After a year where we witnessed a global pandemic, racial unrest, one of the most divisive elections in recent history, murder hornets, “Tiger King,” and Mario Lopez as sexy Colonel Sanders, talking about gratitude can feel … tone deaf.
No one wants to be the obnoxiously cheery “look on the bright side!” person (well, AJ might want to be that person.) And trite phrases like “everything happens for a reason!” or “it’ll all work out in the end!” do more than make you want to crane kick the utterer. They can also fall into the category of “toxic positivity.”
But gratitude is more nuanced than just always having a positive attitude or never feeling down. And it’s not convincing yourself that you shouldn’t feel bad because some other random person might have it worse.
Gratitude is just the conscious decision to find the good in your own life.
Yeah, sometimes that can sound like a lot of work. Which might be why more people don’t consciously decide to practice being grateful.
But the emotional, physcological, and physical health benefits are pretty striking.
Here’s a quick example from a study that Harvard Medical School highlighted:
“One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Other studies have shown that grateful people:
- Have less pain
- Report feeling healthier
- Are more likely to take care of their health
- Have reduced levels of negative emotions, like envy or frustration or regret
- Are more empathetic
- Sleep better
The lists go on and on.
In the nearly two months that Hillary has been practicing being grateful (that sounds like a humblebrag, but it’s … fine, it’s a humblebrag. When she reaches peak enlightenment, she’ll be sure to remember all you little people.) she has noticed a subtle shift in her perception. She’s more likely to notice small things that make her happy or smile, she feels (mostly) less worried about the state of things, and she’s generally more optimistic that things will work out or that she’ll have the tools to deal with them if they don’t.
It’s not all roses and puppy dogs. There are still bad days and dark nights when doubt and worry creep up on her in moments of insomnia. But overall, 10/10, would recommend.
Here are a few ways to cultivate a gratitude practice:
- Keep a gratitude journal, either by hand, online, or through an app (Hillary’s digging an app simply called “Gratitude.”).
- Write thank-you notes to people and/or send fan mail (or emails) to those you admire or who did something nice for you.
- Set a daily reminder to make note of something — or multiple things — you’re grateful for.
- Get specific with the small stuff. It’s great to be thankful for your kids, but detailing a funny story they told you that made you laugh or how they made their beds without being asked is more likely to stick in your mind.
- Keep a gratitude jar where you can toss in notes about little things you’re grateful for.
- Make sure to go back and review what you’ve written to remind yourself of the good stuff. That’s especially useful when you’re having a bad day or moment.
What did we miss? What’s your experience with gratitude? Like it or loathe it? Make us even more grateful for y’all in the comments!