First things, first. What the heck is a daily gratitude practice?
There are many definitions of gratitude depending on the research you look at, but I like to think of gratitude as the acknowledgment of positive outcomes in your life and the reasons for those positive outcomes. There are really two layers to gratitude – recognizing that you have good things happening in your life and that there are many factors contributing to those good things.
For example, I’m grateful for the success Business for Unicorns has had in the past year and I attribute much of that success to my incredible non-sexual life partner Mark Fisher and to our incredible clients who have put their trust in us.
See? Two parts — the positive outcome and forces that made it happen.
A practice of gratitude then is the process by which you regularly acknowledge and embrace your feeling of gratitude. There are so many forms your gratitude practice can take, and I’ll get to those in a minute, but first I want to convince you that you should really consider giving this a try.
If Thanksgiving is the only day of the year you take time to think about all the things you’re grateful for, you are missing out on a world of benefits you can reap by having a daily gratitude practice.
Here are 5 compelling reasons you should start a daily gratitude practice:
- Giving thanks can make you happier. (source)
- Sharing your gratitude can improve your relationships with colleagues, family, and friends. (source)
- Research has shown a link between gratitude and overall well-being. (source)
- A focus on gratitude can take your daily meditation or self-care to the next level.
- A majority of leaders I have interviewed on the Business for Unicorns Podcast have lauded the benefits of a regular gratitude practice.
Now that you are completely convinced (geez, that was easy), it’s time to talk nuts and bolts.
There are countless ways to inject a gratitude practice into every day. The method is less important than consistency, so try multiple strategies for getting your daily dose of gratitude, just make sure it remains a priority.
Gratitude Strategy #1 (Less than one minute)
Add to your schedule one minute every day for a quick gratitude meditation. Many people find it easiest to attach this practice to something you already do. For example, the first minute when you wake up, or right before you go to sleep, during lunch, or while you’re brushing your teeth.
When the time comes, set the alarm on your phone for 60 seconds and make a mental list of all the things in your life you are grateful for and the reasons they are going well.
Don’t forget to think about all the areas of your life: health, family, work, spirituality, community, friends, fun and finance.
Gratitude Strategy #2 (Less than three minutes)
Keep a gratitude journal. Just like the first strategy, it’s best to attach this habit to something you already do every day to ensure consistency.
When the time comes, set the alarm on your phone for 120 seconds and divide your journal page into three columns. In column one list at least three things in your life you are grateful for. In column two, list the primary reason that aspect of your life is going well. And in column three reflect on the ripple-effect that positive thing has on other areas of your life.
This exercise will help you notice the interconnected nature of the outcomes you are generating in your life. Often when one area of your life is going well, finances for example, it will have a dramatic impact on other areas of your life. By having a solid, consistent paycheck you might be able to afford better healthcare or take more vacations, or purchase quality food you enjoy.
Take a moment to survey the full landscape of your gratitude.
Gratitude Strategy #3 (Less than five minutes)
Tell at least two people every day how much you appreciate them. Send an email, shoot them a text, or tell them in person. It doesn’t have to take long, but it does have to be sincere.
When you express your gratitude for someone be specific and give examples.
Just sending “Hey, I’m really grateful for you.” via text is nice, but you can do better.
A more specific example at work might be, “Hey, I’m really grateful for the extra hours you spent on the report you sent me today. Your attention to detail has really allowed me to see this project in a whole new way.”
See the difference? The more specific, the better.
Now go give one (or all) of those strategies a try and let me know how it goes.
Challenge yourself to try it for one week, then reflect on how it’s going. My guess is that you’ll notice an immediate change in yourself and your relationships with others. If not, change your approach and try again.
Leave a comment below or send me an email (michael[at]businessforunicorns.com) and let me know how you’re doing.
P.S. For more wonderfully nerdy info about gratitude, check out this awesome white paper on the Science of Gratitude prepared by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.