health

4 new ways to get on the gratitude bandwagon.

Ditch the gratitude journal, people.

You know what’s all the rage these days? Gratitude.

And for good reason.

Apart from making us happier, gratitude is good for our health and careers, makes us less self-centred, boosts our self-esteem and makes us more resilient. (Want more? This guy actually compiled the results of over 40 studies on gratitude and found more than 31 benefits. You’re welcome.)

So why aren’t more of us practising daily gratitude then? Most likely because it’s boring.

Well ok – maybe it’s just me who found it boring. The first time I tried doing gratitude the ‘usual’ way (by recording a daily gratitude in a diary) I only lasted five days.

Clearly I hadn’t given it a proper shot, so I gave it another go. And again petered out after five days. I was really determined to get on the gratitude bandwagon however. So I went looking for different ways to join in the fun.

1. Practice relentless gratitude.

“Practice relentless gratitude.”

AJ Jacobs is an author and self-described human guinea pig. His books involve him first immersing himself in an extreme way of living … then writing about it. His most recent book is The Year of Living Biblically and one of the things he practiced during the year of immersion for that book was giving thanks. For everything.

Like waking up in the morning and giving thanks for the fact you’ve woken up. Getting out of bed and giving thanks that your legs work. Having a shower and giving thanks for the ready stream of water … and the fact that it’s hot. Going to fridge and giving thanks for the food in there.

Jacobs says not too many things stick with him once the period of extreme immersion is over but this is one that did. He found it interesting how we take all the good stuff in our days for granted and fixate on the one or two bad things that happen.

And then let those one or two things ruin our day. He found when he focused on the hundreds of things that went right every day, the few things that didn’t go right didn’t rock his world as much.

So I gave relentless gratitude a shot and it totally worked. The big and little things that used to really annoy me, I now find it really hard to get revved up about them when I’ve already had 100 odd things go my way in any given day.

2. Celebrate abundance.

This one I pinched from a guy called James Altucher: celebrate the abundance you have in your life as an antidote to the things that are annoying you. Altucher gives the example of sitting frustrated in peak hour traffic one day. So he looks for the abundance in the situation.

“Celebrate abundance.”

He now has an abundance of time to listen to music.

There is an abundance of time to spend with the people who are in the car with him.

Cool right?

So the other day, as I stared at my heaving inbox, wanting to cry at all the headaches those emails held, I turned it around.

Sure there was an abundance of problems but that meant there was an abundance of ways I could help people and make their days better (by solving those problems for them). All of the sudden I felt a lot better – both about my inbox and the day ahead of me.

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3. Practice random acts of extreme gratitude.

How often do we go out of our way to tell people how awesome they are, or that they’ve influenced our lives in a positive way? Not often right? Is it because we don’t want to be seen as sycophants? Or all gushy?

Whatever the reason it’s probably time we got over it. What a cool world we’d have if everyone actually told each other how amazing they were. You could start somewhere safe – like making a point to sit down and tell your parents how much you appreciate the things they did to shape the person you are.

Do you celebrate the “tiny moments”?

You could track down an old teacher or mentor and fill them in on how they’ve influenced your life as you know it today.

You could even try to this super-weird thing I did once. I wrote eulogies for my best friends.

Stay with me.

I have this theory that when people die, that’s when the nicest things get said about them. But of course, they’re not there to hear it and that kind of sucks. So I thought I would write out everything I’d say about my besties if I was called on to give their eulogy … and present it to them.

Sure, they were most likely freaked out a little, but I do think they appreciated the sentiment. And I sure benefited from reflecting on their great qualities and how lucky I was to have them in my life!

4. Celebrate the tiny moments.

Do you follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook? You really should. I love her.

So Elizabeth Gilbert has a Happiness Jar. It’s a practice she started a few years ago. Each day she writes down the happiest moment of her day (as opposed to something she is ‘grateful for’) on a piece of paper and puts it in the jar. Then, when she’s feeling blue, she pulls one of those pieces of paper from the jar and reads it.

Here’s what she found about the things she records on those pieces of paper:

They are very seldom glamorous moments, or dramatic moments, or moments of great accomplishment. They are almost always nearly invisible moments when suddenly I just felt in my bones the very best aspects of my humanity — gratitude, peace, hope, contentment. For instance, on the day that I went on the Oprah Winfrey Show — which was one of the greatest days of my life — my happiest moment of the day was not when I met Oprah (though it was the most dazzling and amazing moment of the day.). The happiest moment of that day was sitting in my hotel room in Chicago, two hours before I went to the studio, watching my mother lovingly iron the satin sash of the dress I was going to wear on the show that afternoon — feeling like a child again, being taken care of by my sweet mom. 

See why I love her? How beautiful is that?

Mother, runner, writer, blogger. Serial over-committer. Kelly Exeter believes a busy life need not be a stressful life. She blogs about embracing the busy by living intentionally at A Life Less Frantic. Her new book ‘Your Best Year Yet – 7 simple ways to shift your thinking and take charge of your life’ is now available on Amazon here.

Have you ever made a point of practising gratitude? How did it work out for you? 

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