Tricks for Starting and Maintaining Your Gratitude Practice

November 07, 2016 by John Andrew Williams

It seems like the idea of gratitude and being grateful is everywhere – especially when working in the life coaching world. As a coach, I have been taught about the value gratitude brings to my clients, and it is part of my job to strive to help them cultivate it in their own lives. As a friend and girlfriend, I am constantly reminding the people who I care about to “think positive” and be thankful for all of the little things, even when it seems like they are few and far between. And as a daughter and sister, I consider it part of my job to encourage gratitude and the spirit of thankfulness in order to keep the peace throughout the family.

However, as a human being, I often struggle on a daily basis to remember my own words of advice. It’s easy to tell someone else to keep a gratitude journal and write in it every night before they go bed, or to take one minute every day to simply stop and admire their surroundings. Even as I write this I am thinking, “Hey, that actually sounds pretty easy! Why did I ever stop doing those things”? But, no matter how simple those little tasks seem right now, I can never seem to hang on to my practice of gratitude for the long haul (and it turns out, I am not alone – neither can a lot of people).

Challenges to Maintaining Gratitude Practice

As someone who likes to ask “why” about just about everything, and who has spent a significant amount of time reading and researching habits, I have spent A LOT of time analyzing this whole situation. Many of the reasons that I, and many others, don’t follow through on their practice of gratitude comes down to these few things:

  • Time – There just never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything done.
  • We forget – Life is busy, and sometimes we just forget to be grateful or do our gratitude practice.
  • Bad moods – Some days it just doesn’t seem like there really is anything to be grateful for, or we are in such a negative mindset that coming up with something positive seems impossible.
  • It gets old – Doing the same gratitude practice every day or on a schedule can start to feel like a chore, and it may make us forget the real reason we started doing it in the first place.

Tricks for Overcoming Challenges

The good news is, while I am very much a “why” thinker, I have also been making an effort to work on my “how” thinking, and it turns out that there is a whole bunch of research and information on how we can combat these challenges. Here are just a few tricks for starting and maintaining your gratitude practice and a grateful mindset.

Be Realistic

This was always a BIG one for me! It is easy to get really excited about the topic of gratitude, and this can lead to a flood of great ideas on how to cultivate and increase feelings of gratitude. However, it is important to take a step back and be realistic about what type(s) of gratitude practice you can actually work into your day. Be sure to consider things such as work and family commitments, your energy levels throughout the day, and leisure time. Anticipating the things that could pose a challenge to your gratitude practice is also valuable and will help you overcome obstacles along the way.

Set Reminders

Let’s face it, life is busy, and our hectic schedules are oftentimes the biggest reason we do not make time for gratitude. However, the solution to a busy schedule is simple; set reminders for yourself. This can be anything from sticky notes in your house, office, and car to scheduling an alarm on your phone. I highly recommend that if you chose the sticky note route to be sure to move them to different places on occasion. If you keep them in one place for too long, you might find that you start to overlook them.

Be Specific in Your Thanks

Keeping a gratitude journal has been proven to be one of the best ways to increase gratitude and a positive mindset, but it can sometimes be difficult to come up with new things to write each day. If you keep a journal, one of the best ways you can keep your practice going is to be as specific as possible in your entries. While being thankful for your friends is great, try to think of a specific thing one of them did and what that meant to you. This will not only deepen your feeling of gratitude, but it will increase the number of things you can find to be grateful for.

Mix It Up

One of the best things I have found to help me stay on track with my gratitude practice is to mix up my methods of practice. If you are tired of writing in your journal every night, try drawing a picture of what you are grateful for, or if taking a moment to appreciate the world around you on your lunch break is feeling like a chore, try using your car ride home as time for reflection. If you feel like you are running out of ideas, you can even do a quick Google search – there are limitless possibilities and ideas, floating around on countless websites and blogs, that can rejuvenate your gratitude practice.

The power of gratitude is truly incredible, and what’s even more incredible is the fact that we have the ability to cultivate it for ourselves. We actually have the power to improve our mindsets, and even modify the way our brains work, by practicing small amounts of gratitude in our daily lives. I don’t know about you, but THAT feels amazing!

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