Lavender Living: Practicing Gratitude
Do you ever look at someone and think, "Man, she really has all the luck! Why does everything good happen to her?" Meanwhile, you feel like everything bad or unfortunate happens to you? I used to feel this way. I would be envious of how easy life seemed for others and wonder why this wasn't the case for me. Looking back, I realize how absolutely ridiculous this is, but at the time I was stuck in a ‘poor me’ rut. Then, something changed. I started spending time each morning reading my daily devotional and focusing on all that I have to be thankful for; slowly, I found myself happier and feeling more in control of my life.
Why did this simple practice turn things around for me? I believe it's because what you choose to focus on, you create more of in your life. It's all about perspective. Take a second to think about it - if you start your day in a bad way and dwell on it, the bad continues to compound and your day quickly goes from bad to worse. The same is true for the positive things happening in your life, but for some reason our minds are trained to think and talk about our problems rather than focusing on the good.
It's time to break that nasty habit.
As I said before, actively practicing gratitude in my day-to-day life has led to such a positive shift for me, and it can do the same for you, too! Not only does focusing on your blessings make those blessings grow stronger, but this state of gratitude comes with so many benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional health. The physical benefits include decreased blood pressure, improved sleep quality, and fewer illnesses. Focusing on gratitude can also increase levels of positive emotions, decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, increase happiness, and bring peace to chaos.
How can we practice gratitude?
Oh, let me count the ways! Gratitude is a practice because it takes a conscious effort at first, before it becomes a more natural experience; this means consistently choosing to focus on the positive in your life. The best way to get started with practicing gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, as writing helps organize thoughts, as well as to bring your focus to things in life that you may otherwise take for granted.
To get the most out of keeping a gratitude journal, try sticking to a few simple rules:
1. Journal consistently, but don't overdo it.
Studies show that journaling 1-3 times per week is the most beneficial. Daily journaling, or journaling too frequently, can cause you to adapt quickly to positive events which can cause you to become numb to them.
2. Don't just go through the motions.
Make a conscious effort to become happier and more grateful with each event throughout the day, not just while journaling. Being grateful means being present and truly living; make an effort to stop dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Instead, spend time with loved ones and enjoy all that you have.
Don't just list out what you're grateful for; be specific and include why and how it makes you feel. Then, take the time to thoroughly enjoy your feelings and positive emotions.
4. Try and stay away from things.
Focusing on people and/or experiences that bless your life has a far greater impact than materialistic things.
5. Be grateful, even during the storm.
When it feels like everything is going wrong, look for one good reason to be positive. There is always something to be thankful for.
6. Stop hanging onto past hurt.
Find ways to be thankful for negative experiences and look for the growth they brought. Remember, this isn't to say you shouldn't feel all the negative emotions that the experience caused. Letting yourself feel those emotions is healthy and necessary, but dwelling and letting those feelings compound is not. Once you have gone through the anger, pain, and negative emotions, seek the help you need to find peace and closure so that you have positive visions for the future.
Note: we are not mental health professionals - please seek immediate help if you are having feelings of intense sadness/depression or suicidal thoughts.
7. Let go of the urge to be in control.
Learn to let go and relax - easier said than done, I know, but try your best. We can't control everything that happens in our life. Shift your focus instead to what you can control, and that is how you react to situations and how you choose to perceive them.
I truly believe in the practice of gratitude journaling and its ability to completely turn your situation around for the better. In the past year, after making a conscious effort to count my blessings and focus on the positive in my life, my overall happiness has improved significantly. I have been able to better organize my thoughts and plans for my life, and move forward towards my goals and dreams. Choosing gratitude and changing my perspective has put me in the driver's seat of my own life. I know I'm not in control of what happens, but I am in control of how I perceive my life and how I respond to my circumstances. As a result, I am able to create the life I've always dreamed of. Who doesn’t want to be able to say that?!
So, what are you waiting for? Click here to snag yourself a gratitude journal, and give it a go! Need to keep yourself accountable? Snag our favorite habit tracker here to hold yourself accountable to consistent journaling. We can’t wait to hear how gratitude journaling positively shifts your perspective, and I hope you love it as much as I do!