Over a year ago I read the book The Magic by Rhonda Bryne and it completely changed my life and mindset. The book contains a series of gratitude practices. Most of us know that it is important to regularly practice gratitude. In fact, research indicates that people who consistently practice gratitude are happier, have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, feel less lonely, and have higher levels of positive emotions. However, I was one of those people who knew about the benefits, but just didn't feel motivated to begin a regular gratitude practice.
Reading the book inspired me to adopt a daily practice of making gratitude lists. I use a free app called "Thankful," which enables me to save my lists on my phone. I believe that it doesn't matter what external goals you achieve. If you do not practice feeling thankful for things in your life, it will be difficult to feel fulfilled and joyful. If you do not appreciate what you have currently, what makes you think that you will feel happier with more? Once I began practicing gratitude, I realized how many things I had to be thankful for-which I had previously been taking for granted.
It is important to note that you can even work to feel thankful for difficult or unpleasant situations or circumstances. While you may not wish them upon anyone, often it is through our times of struggle that we truly grow as people. As with any skill, consistency is important in terms of strengthening your "gratitude muscle." Over time, you can actually train your brain to attune to the positive in your life-rather than dwelling on the negative.
The importance of practicing gratitude was one key takeaway that I got from reading The Magic. However, an exercise that was written in the first chapter was also something that transformed my life. The exercise entailed writing down your dreams and goals within different areas of your life, such as "Health and Wellness, Career, Family, Relationships."
This practice seems so simple, yet it is so instrumental in creating momentum and positive change in your life. Often, I think that we do not take the time out of our busy lives to be very specific about what we truly desire. In each category, I tried to be as detailed as possible. Additionally, I wrote it in the format of, "I would love to have etc." I made my first list last year when I had just graduated from a Master's program. I was astonished to see that a few months later, most of what I had written had actually happened.
For instance, I wrote the exact type of job that I was looking for, my desired location, salary range, and what I was looking for in terms of employment. Two months later, and I had started working at a job that was almost identical to the detailed description that I had written. It is important to note that this didn't actually happen by magic. Once I became clear about what it was that I wanted, I found myself naturally acting in ways that got me closer to my goals. I was so surprised by how many of my goals had actually come to fruition following my original goal list, that I began to make a new list each month.
I didn't necessarily know how I would achieve many of the goals, however once I set my intentions-it seemed to propel me closer in that direction. When I became clear about what I wanted, I noticed that I began taking many of the necessary action steps. So many of my dreams and goals for myself have come true this year-one being becoming a regular blogger for The Huffington Post.
This week I would challenge you to start practicing gratitude for all that you already have, as otherwise it is unlikely that you will be happier with more. Additionally, I would urge you to start to get very clear about what it is that you truly desire in your life by making a detailed list of your dreams and goals.
Dr. Marcia Hootman, an author, summed it up best when she stated,
On day one, nothing much changed for me. In fact, I was hard pressed to write down 10 reasons I was grateful. But by the end of the first week, things were looking up. Upon awakening, I felt just a teeny bit lighter and happier. I thought it was my imagination. The second week in my practice of gratitude, my daily lists grew. I realized I was grateful for living in a warm, safe home. I began being grateful for my health, for my friends, even for the birds that were singing outside my bedroom window. By the end of the third week, it was as if any dreariness of my life started to clear and the sun popped out. Then I realized the miracle. Nothing outside of me changed-it was all an inside job.
For self-love inspiration connect with Jennifer on Facebook.