Gratitude is an invaluable tool that can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and promote better mental health. If you are looking for an effective way to practice gratitude and cultivate mindfulness, you’ve come to the right place. In today’s blog post, I will share an easy tool to help you create a meaningful and effective gratitude practice as a beginner. By following the two steps outlined in this post, you can begin to incorporate gratitude into your daily life and reap all of its wonderful benefits.
Picture this: 13 year old Giya at Christmastime.
I had been struggling with acne that year and it made me feel pretty bad about having a pizza face. This was around the time that Proactiv started becoming popular and I remembered my mother mentioning that I could probably benefit from it. I also put on my angel tree form at church that I wanted an Easy Bake Oven. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so I wasn’t expecting both, but honestly, I wanted the Easy Bake Oven more than I wanted face wash. Let’s be real. I went to bed, convinced that I had a glorified microwave waiting for me.
When I woke up in the morning and saw that there was just one very small wrapped present for me under the tree, I immediately got an attitude. My mom was excited, but as I pouted and took my time unwrapping the gift, my worst fears were confirmed: face wash.
“Do you like it?” my mother asked, probably shocked by my lack of response.
“It’s okay, I guess.” More pouting.
“You are so ungrateful! You know this stuff is expensive. You were so upset about your face!” My mom was livid.
In my mind, I wouldn’t have anything cool to brag about getting for the holidays, and it made me feel even more self-conscious about my face. Worst Christmas ever.
It felt like a slap in the face and I had no idea why it was so important to express my gratitude for something I found humiliating. My parents were SUPPOSED to buy me multiple gifts for the holidays. I didn’t get why I only got one…and it wasn’t even the one I wanted most. Hindsight being what it is, I understand that it is important to express gratitude as a way to show love and appreciation for the people and things in our lives. I used the face wash my mom bought me and my acne improved, I didn’t feel self conscious about my face anymore, and after a while I was able to appreciate the sacrifice my parents made to get me something that was much more satisfying than a plastic toy.
(Side note: one of my mom’s friends also bought me the Easy Bake Oven, and it broke within a month of playing with it.)
I remember apologizing to my mother months later for being such a brat, and her smile made me feel good as well. I learned that it feels good to be appreciated and I know that whenever I did say thank you or was thanked for doing something, I felt closer to all I shared those simple words with.
How to create a gratitude practice
Practicing gratitude mindfully isn’t something you need to document or spend untold amounts of time on. I can do my super simple but powerful gratitude practice anywhere and at any time multiple times a day.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Take a moment to appreciate something– whether it be a person, situation, thing, or your own hard work. I like to say something like “Thank you________ for_____ .” Let yourself feel the joy of gratitude and savor it for a few moments.
Step 2: Shift your attention to the lesson that experience or thing has taught you. Consider the bigger picture, and ask yourself what can be learned from that moment. I often say something like “I appreciate that I learned____. It makes me feel____.” It’s okay if it feels silly at first–it gets easier the more you practice. If you can’t see the lesson, just focus on saying thank you.
Examples from my own life
Gratitude for a person:
One of my friends bought me a beautiful velvet robe as a birthday present. When I got it in the mail, I made sure to send her a video of me trying it on and share how much I loved it. Then, in my reflection on the gift, I said “Thank you universe for giving me such a good friend. I appreciate that I met such a positive and kind soul who shows me how important it is to be thoughtful and kind to those I love.”
Gratitude for a situation:
When I met my partner, a lot of people were very critical of the fact that our relationship was long-distance. I knew that this person would help me get closer to the type of person I wanted to be, so I often say “I am so grateful I met my partner the way I did. Our long-distance relationship helped us focus on falling in love with each other’s personalities.”
The importance of gratitude
In modern society, there is so much emphasis placed on having, doing, and being more. I’m sure many of you can relate to feeling like you have to be perfect in order to be accepted, loved, and successful in life. We are told that if we don’t get straight A’s, win every award at school or work, perform at a high level 24/7, and achieve more than anyone else then there is something wrong with us.
For many years, felt like I wasn’t enough and that if only I could do more, have more, and be more then I would finally be good enough. But the truth is that we are all doing the best we can with what we have at any given moment in time. Trying to catch up to other people and viewing life as a race to the finish line brings us pain, misery and suffering because it is unrealistic.
When we slow down and start expressing gratitude for all that we already have instead of what is missing, we can focus on the positive moments in our lives, increase our self-esteem, build healthy relationships, boost our mental and physical health, and bring about a greater sense of happiness and contentment. Not only does a gratitude practice make us feel good, but it also positively impacts those around us.
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