How to Begin a Gratitude Practice and Change Your Life

The following guest post is from Doña Bumgarner of Nurtured Mama:

How Begin a Gratitude Practice And Change Your Life at lifeyourway.net

source: Doña Bumgarner

The year I got divorced I struggled with a deep depression. Just getting out of bed each morning took monumental effort.

The one thing that grounded me each day, and eventually helped pull me back to life, was a tiny journal that I kept on my headboard. Each night I would write down three things I was grateful for that day.  Just three. It cleared my head of the swirling thoughts and worries of my day so I could sleep. But more than that, those little lists helped remind me that there were things worth noticing and life beyond the sadness I was in the middle of.

Some days what I recorded seemed so minuscule, like “the way the light hit the lake this morning” or “my cat was waiting for me at the door when I got home.” Reading the journal now, I can see where I began to heal.  I began to write things like, “I stood looking at bins of apples at the store today and felt nourished,” and, “Today I felt accepted for being myself.”  One day I wrote, “I felt happy for hours.”

Eventually I fell away from the habit and put the little gratitude journal away in my nightstand. But in periods when the world seems too big and overwhelming I pull it back out and spend a week or a month writing down my list of three things before sleep.

Studies consistently show positive outcomes from a conscious and routine practice of gratitude like this. Although my practice was always alone, it is a great thing for kids, too. Families that actively discuss what they appreciate in their lives find that their children become kinder, more appreciative and more enthusiastic.

Here’s how you can start your own gratitude practice:

1. Find a journal and a pen.

Don’t over think this. Use a notepad or a post it note, if that’s what you have handy. I happened to have an unused tiny journal that had pages just the right size for a list of three, but anything you can write on will work. Use your daily planner if that’s what you have most often near you. Print out and use these Gratitude Journal cards from the Life Your Way printables collection. It is the act of doing, not the receptacle for the act, that matters!

2. Decide what time of day you will journal.

Because I was struggling with insomnia during that year of my divorce, I chose to make my list before sleep so that I would have something positive in the front of my mind as I settled down to rest. Instead, you might want to make your list alongside your morning coffee, or while you are brushing your teeth (use an erasable marker and write on your mirror!), or in the quiet moments just after your kids are all off to school.

3. Decide how long your list will be.

I love the number three and a list of three feels very attainable. But listing one thing you are grateful for each day is just as effective. If you really want to push yourself to find the breadth of what is beautiful in your life, go for a list of five or ten!

4. Begin.

Remember, this is a practice, not a contest. If you forget a day or two, that’s alright, just begin again when you remember. If you can’t think of more than one thing to write down one day, don’t worry about it. You’ll probably have more tomorrow. If the practice doesn’t feel quite right, make adjustments. Try a different time of day or a shorter list. Perfection is not a requirement here.

Whether this becomes for you a lifelong daily practice or like me, one of the handful of tools you use to keep yourself centered and happy, I hope that you will find as much value in it as I do.

How do you practice gratefulness?

Doña Bumgarner is a writer, mama and blogger who is grateful for her life every day, whether she writes it down or not. You can find her at NurturedMama.net, where she writes about soulful parenting and self care for mothers.