"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness -- it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." -- Brene Brown
Recently I read Brene Brown's book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, and it had quite an impact on me. In her book, she listed her 10 Guideposts of Wholehearted Living, and I decided to look into each one to make sure I'm living wholeheartedly. I found that I am lacking a little bit in many of her guideposts, but if there was one where I felt entirely confident it was number four: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy.
I know we are all busy, and it is not easy to exercise gratitude on a daily basis, so I have found ways (tricks) to keep me on track. I know that cultivating gratitude is a choice I need to make every day, or I will miss all the magical moments of my life. Consciously practicing gratitude lifts my mood, gives me a more positive outlook, enhances my creativity and makes me feel more fulfilled. I know this may sound strange, but I think it also helps me sleep. I've experimented sometimes by noticing when I have a more restful sleep and it is almost always on the days that I have been paying attention and noting the abundance in my life.
Here are some of the some of the ways (tricks) that I use to cultivate gratitude everyday. Maybe you will find them useful in your life as well.
1. Journal every day. I begin my days with journaling. At the start of each day, I jot down what I am grateful for, even if it's just a few things. If I don't journal in the morning, I do so at night. Either way, I spend time each day writing gratitude entries in my journal or recalling my gratitude list in my head -- plugging into what I am grateful for and starting my days on a positive note. To be honest, not every day is sunshine and roses, so on tough days I use my journal to vent, which also helps.
2. Create a gratitude bulletin board. I start off the year with an empty bulletin board, and throughout the year, I post things I am grateful for. It includes letters and cards from people (I really like thank you cards), things I've read that resonate with me, any expression of love from my family and friends (artwork, poems), conference badges that list me as a speaker, magazines that quote me -- all sorts of tangible representations of all things good in my life. At the end of each year in December, I take everything down from my bulletin board and put it in a folder called Gratitude 2011, 2012, etc. I use this time to review my year, and that makes me feel even more grateful. For every year, I have a record of the things I am grateful for, and a very tangible reminder of the abundance and blessings in my life. Instead of looking at things I don't have (I am not a fan of a manifestation boards) I look at the abundance of good things I do have.
3. Practice gratitude with family. When my kids were little, we had dinner together every night. One of our dinner time activities was to discuss the high and low points of our day. It was a wonderful way to spend time thinking about the things we feel grateful for and sharing those things with each other. I also read recently from Brene Brown that it's an excellent way to demonstrate resilience with your kids -- when they hear you discuss low points and see how you navigate through them -- you are showing them how to face and overcome challenges. Sharing gratitude at a meal really compounds gratitude because you might feel gratitude about a family member's answer (sometimes my girls expressed gratitude for our family -- and that was really sweet!). These days it's difficult to get everyone with different schedules to sit down for a meal together, but when we do we laugh remembering our "high and low points" exercise.
4. Have some gratitude reminders. A few years ago I came up with another little trick to remind me to practice gratitude. I used to forget to close my garage door when heading off to work in the morning. Now, when I pull out of the garage, I spend the few seconds it takes for the garage door to close to list the things I am grateful for about my home. I no longer forget to close the garage door and (bonus) I get a small opportunity to think about what I am grateful for about my house and home.
These are some easy ways I use to cultivate gratitude on a daily basis. Practicing gratitude really helps me keep a positive attitude and helps me to consciously see and feel all of the magic around me. I hope some of these gratitude reminders encourage you to create your own ways of celebrating the wonderful magical moments in your life.
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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