How To Build a Simple Practice for Cultivating Gratitude

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“My life is overwhelming,” Katya said. “I’ve got money problems, a relationship crisis, and my kids are at a terrible age. I feel like I’m falling apart.”

Katya is a good friend of mine who is doing a lot of hard stuff young: kids, marriage, work. While most of us are complaining about dating and not having money for the vacation we want, she’s in the trenches of life big time. In comparison, I’m just grateful that my problems are so simple!

But that feeling of gratitude made me wonder what she was grateful for (probably not having to sift through potential dates on Tinder, for one). So I asked her. And that sparked a conversation that led to a resolution we both decided to keep: cultivating a gratitude practice.

It’s not like this is completely a new idea. My mom was always saying “count your blessings,” after all. I dismissed it as a Pollyanna response to life then, but since I put my new practice in place, I’ve seen how powerful this simple action can be. And starting a gratitude practice isn’t hard. In fact, if you have any kind of spiritual or meditation practice already, you can just work it in. Below are seven tips for cultivating the simple but effective habit of recognizing the positive in your life.

1. Decide to Do It!

Well, okay, obviously. But you have to make the decision and then commit to it. I mostly suck at resolutions, but there are times when digging deep pays off. So make the commitment to yourself, and, like Katya and I did, consider getting an accountability buddy to help you stay on track.

2. Choose a Set Time

We humans are totally oriented to routine. Even if you think you are the most random person, you have something you do every day (Teeth brushing—I hope! Daily coffee? Yoga class? Run? Evening glass of wine?). I would make your gratitude practice happen during something you already are committed to. If you are the kind of person who needs candles and incense, go for it, but don’t make it hard on yourself if you aren’t. The power of the practice is in the doing, not the atmosphere you build around it. I do mine when I’m having my morning coffee since I usually write in my Tarot journal then anyway. Which brings me to…

3. Write It Down

Even though I’d text Katya my gratitudes, I always wrote them down for myself first. It seems more powerful that way, and looking back over your list can be really inspiring when you are feeling totally ungrateful. I’m old school; I love fancy journals and pens, but you can keep the list on your phone or computer. I chose to have five things on my list per day, but that was just for my sense of order. Again, the point is to do it. 

4. Fake It Til You Make It

So, does faking a gratitude count? Yes, I think so. Some days you just won’t be feeling it. But there is always something to be grateful for. Are you breathing? Safe? Fed? Do you have a place to sleep tonight? Think about all the people who don’t have even basic necessities right now. Sometimes I’m grateful for clean clothes or the fact that I have all my teeth (sparked by a stint I did at a homeless shelter in a service project). If you are reading this post, you likely have a device—be grateful for that. Many days you’ll have epic things to be grateful for, but when you don’t, look to the tiny, the commonplace—like clean water and a flushing toilet.

5. Become an Expert “Feeler”

This isn’t as creepy as it sounds—in fact, it’s amazing to really be able to recognize the feeling of gratitude in your body, and then learn to create it when you need it. You will have genuine feelings of well-being, joy, happiness, whatever, when you write your gratitude list—remember them! What happens in your body? How does gratitude feel? Then, when you are having those days when you aren’t feeling it, use your brain to conjure the sensation from memory. Science tells us that our brains don’t know the difference between a memory and reality, so we can create a feeling from inside to impact our current state of mind. 

6. Don’t Stop!

 Humans are so nutty—we often stop doing something just when it starts to work! I highly recommend not doing this! I started my gratitude practice over a year ago, and it has totally made a difference in my life. I feel like it has sharpened my intuition, so I make better decisions and I’m a better psychic. Being grateful every day is like ticking the “yes” box—telling the universe “more of this, please!” Still, you may feel like you hit a plateau or that it isn’t working at some point, which is a great time to get a little boost from your accountability buddy.

7. Get Support to Stay Strong

Sometimes life does bring the big stuff, and we need support. After our conversation a year ago, I also gave Katya a reading to help her get some insight into her troubles. Having that greater guidance gave her a boost so that starting her practice was easier. I myself get readings from fellow psychics when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need additional support. And I’m always so grateful for whatever wisdom comes through in the reading.

A gratitude practice will change your life in mostly small ways (though be open to the big). But those small ways add up and will create a well of positivity, optimism, and faith within you that is more useful than the whole glass-half-empty thing. Your practice will give you a spiritual battery pack to get you through tough times. It will open your heart, make you more compassionate, and help you be more loving toward yourself, others, and your own life.

A visit with an advisor on Keen can bring understanding and insight and help you move forward with clarity. Call today!

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