I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! It’s only been a few days but I already see people gearing up for the next set of holidays of the season, with Christmas tree farms sprouting up from empty fields and festive lights strung up on the neighbors’ houses.
Before Thanksgiving becomes a distant memory, though, I wanted to talk a little bit about the practice of gratitude. Even if your Thanksgiving was more filled with family drama and travel plans gone awry than with gratitude, no time to start feeling thankful than the present!
Why practice gratitude?
Gratitude is not about forcing yourself to feel good even when life sucks. The reason to practice gratitude is that there is often positivity and and joy around us that we fail to notice. Instead of dwelling on small annoyances (or big catastrophes), we can strengthen our resilience to the natural ups and downs of life by practicing noticing the good things.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate a regular gratitude practice into your daily routine:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every night, write a list of 10 things you’re thankful for. Or, every morning, write down one thing you’re thankful for, trying not to repeat anything you’ve written before.
2. Say grace. Before meals, say 3 things you’re grateful for.
3. Share an evening gratitude ritual. If you have a partner, spouse, or child, create a ritual where you share back and forth what you’re thankful for before bed.
4. Get a “gratitude buddy.” When something nice happens during your day (no matter how small – think “driver let me change lanes in traffic” or “found $5 in jeans pocket”) send an email or text to your buddy. As an added bonus, you’ll get to experience the joy of hearing all about your friend’s good fortune, too.
5. Practice being thankful for things you take for granted. Write a list of 5 things you take for granted (maybe your health, your spouse, your house, your income, etc.). Imagine that all of these things are taken away from you. Then, imagine getting each of them back, one by one, and how thankful you’d be.
6. Share your thanks with the people you appreciate. Choose a few people who have positively impacted your life (maybe your parents, or teachers, or mentors) and send them hand-written thank-you cards.
7. Go for a gratitude walk. Take a stroll and take note of all the positive things you come across, like the crisp air, the smell of flowers, your comfortable shoes, etc.
8. Turn your morning cup of coffee or tea into an opportunity to practice gratitude. Instead of sipping away while reading the paper or thinking about other things, pay attention to the experience mindfully. Focus on the smell, taste, and texture, and notice the small aspects of drinking your coffee or tea that you appreciate.
Right now, I’m sitting in front of my computer this fine Tuesday morning, sipping a delicious cup of coffee, looking forward to getting my day started. I’m grateful that I get to do work I absolutely love and that years of hard work are starting to pay off (see my Medical School Ukulele Song to get a glimpse of the difficulty, and hilarity, of what it took to get here).
I’m grateful for my amazing boyfriend Peter, who has random (but extremely awesome) hobbies like blacksmithing and woodworking and truffle farming and will definitely be the one in charge of building our house when we someday move out of LA and get to the woods.
I’m grateful for my health, my family, and my friends.
And I’m very grateful that you’re here with me right now, taking the time to read something I wrote, and sharing the belief that happiness, joy, and fulfillment are worth striving for.
Photo by Zephyrance Lou