WE ALL HAVE A LOT TO BE THANKFUL FOR.
By Stephanie Hertzenberg
Cultivating a grateful mindset has been shown to have many benefits including lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, better sleep, lower likelihood of depression and a lower likelihood of contacting illnesses. Teaching yourself to have a thankful mindset, however, can seem like a daunting challenge. After all, there is no way it can be easy to change the way you look at the world, right?
Cultivating a thankful mindset, however, does not have to be difficult. Small, daily habits add up quickly to form a more grateful mind. A grateful mind then has an easier time finding more things to be thankful for which gives you an even more grateful mindset. Here are five ways to remind yourself to be grateful every day and start cultivating a more thankful mindset.
Say Prayers Before Bed
Every night when you go to bed, take a moment to say a prayer of gratitude. Focus on the good things that happened during the day. You could be thankful to have a good job or have gotten a promotion. You might be thankful for having a romantic dinner with your spouse. You might also be grateful for such simple things as having a roof over your head and food on the table. Take a few moments to appreciate those before going to sleep, and say a prayer of thanks.
Exchange Gratitude Stories with Your Significant Other
Gratitude builds on itself and feeds itself. It can also be contagious. Take advantage of both of those quirks of thankfulness, and work with your significant other to cultivate a more grateful mindset. Take a few minutes each day to talk with your significant other about the things for which you are thankful. You could have this conversation over dinner in the evenings or at night when you are preparing for bed. If you or your significant other often works late, you could have the discussion in the morning over breakfast, and start your days off on a thankful note. You could also do this through a text exchange. Simply set a time that works for both you and your spouse, and send each other a text or two detailing what you are feeling thankful for in the moment. Midmorning coffee breaks work well for such conversations, or you could agree to text during lunch.
If you are naturally pessimistic or have trouble falling into a grateful mindset, leaving yourself little reminders to be grateful might be a good idea. You could leave sticky notes around the house in places that you are likely to encounter them. Put a note on the coffee pot reminding yourself that you have coffee to drink. Pin a note to your boots that tells you to be thankful you have shoes to wear.
You can also set up your phone to send you reminders. There are specific apps you can download to send you reminders to be grateful, or you could download a daily gratitude quote or prayer app. You can also make your own reminders using the preinstalled programs on your phone. Set up a calendar event, alarm or daily reminder to take a few moments to be grateful. You could be thankful for something as simple as the fact that you have food to eat or that you have a place to sleep.
Reminders are especially helpful if you are expecting or are having a bad week. It can be easy to lose track of the little things to be grateful for during a difficult or stressful time. Small reminders that you encounter throughout your day can help you hold on to a thankful mindset. This mindset can help minimize stress and help you find the silver lining in your circumstances.
Gratitude List Routines
Another easy way to practice gratitude is to list all the things you are thankful for when you do a certain, daily activity, such as brushing your teeth or making the bed. You might identify one thing to be thankful for with each step you take to reach the bathroom in the morning, and recite each thing every time your foot touches the ground. You might also list things you are grateful for while the pot boils and continue listing things while the coffee brews. Other easy times to make gratitude lists are while waiting at a stoplight and while washing your hands. You could say a prayer of thanks every time you wash your hands, or list five things you are thankful for while you are scrubbing the soap off your hands. You could also make it a point to list three things to be thankful for every time you miss a stoplight. In addition to helping you cultivate a more grateful mindset, this practice would help both keep your stress levels down if you are running late and pass the time if you are waiting at a long light.
Gratitude Journals and Thankfulness Strips
One of the classic ways to cultivate a grateful mindset is to keep a gratitude journal. To keep a gratitude journal, simply choose a notebook that you are fond of and write down three to five things you are thankful for each day. They can be simple, everyday things such as “talking with my friends,” “having dinner with my spouse” or “the children took their baths without fighting with me.” As time goes by you can increase the number of things you list to seven, ten or a dozen. You can also assign yourself five “grateful minutes” each night when you list things you are thankful for until the time runs out.
Thankfulness strips or blessing strips are a variation of a gratitude journal. Rather than writing down things you are grateful for in a notebook, thanksgiving strips are written on small pieces of paper. To use thankfulness strips, take a piece of construction paper or cardstock and cut it into strips that are roughly an inch wide and three inches long. Every night before you go to bed, every morning when you wake up or both, write one thing you are thankful for on the strip of paper, and put it in a jar. Then, when you need a reminder of all the good things in your life, you can take out the strips and reread them.
Cultivating a grateful mindset does not need to be difficult, it just take a little bit of practice. Make time each day to find a few minutes to focus on what you are thankful for, and you will find that you begin to appreciate the little things in life more and more. It is those little things, after all, that you may realize are actually the most important.Stephanie Hertzenberg is a writer and editor at Beliefnet. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary where she majored in Religious Studies and minored in Creative Writing. She maintains an avid interest in health, history and science.