Gratitude, you hear about it everywhere these days. So, how do you practice gratitude?
Is it an attitude of gratitude? Or just be grateful for what you have? Or simply give thanks?
Indeed these are fantastic things to do. We should be grateful for what we have in our lives, and we are living in the most abundant time of recorded history. Shouldn’t we always be giving thanks for what we have?
And my answer to that is hell, yes we should!
With as much abundance we have, we should be downright throwing a party for the universe that smiles down on us.
We should, but we don’t give much thanks for the things in our lives. Most people fail to appreciate all they have in their lives. We are continually being bombarded with images of things we don’t have. And because we do not have these shiny new things, we can not be genuinely happy.
That is what companies want you to believe anyway. If you are always comparing yourself to others, if you are saying I don’t have the newest fashion or car or house, then you can’t be happy. For a culture that claims to value individualism, we chase being the same as everyone else way too often.
So what does all this have to do with gratitude?
What if instead of competing with everyone for the latest hot item, we stopped fighting and were grateful for the people and things in our lives?
Before Heather and I started down this path of change in our lives, I was obsessed with buying things on Amazon. When I first started buying from Amazon, it was an occasional book or gift for someone.
In 2010 I only purchased two.
In 2016 I had placed over 100 orders from Amazon, totaling over two hundred items. That was just on Amazon; I regularly ordered from multiple other sites as well. The UPS, FedEx, and USPS drivers knew me by name and would greet me in the stores around town if I saw them.
Was I grateful for what I already had?
No, I was continually buying new things trying to fill a space inside me that at the time I didn’t even realize was there.
Our decision to pay off debt and save money forced me to change my spending habits; you can’t pay off debt if you are continually adding to it.
This decision also forced me to take a look at my life. If buying things wasn’t going to fill the emptiness inside me, what was?
Finding My Joy
So I started looking at my life and what I already had. And what I found was that it wasn’t things that were my good memories in life. It wasn’t the new item I bought on Monday and forgot about on Friday when the next package came in.
It was the memories of listening to my family laugh and talk inside the house during family barbeques; of having friends over for drinks and laughter. Those are the kind of moments that create lasting memories for me. Not items that I bought online and had to review in my order screen to even remember what they are.
Replacing Bad Habits
So what does my spending history have to do with gratitude?
For me, when I stop one bad habit, I usually replace it with another habit. Sometimes good, sometimes not. Like when I quit drinking soda and started drinking sugar-free energy drinks! Yikes, not a healthy trade-off at all!
For the last few months, I have started my day off a little differently than I usually did before. After reading so much about how gratitude can help change your attitude and outlook on life, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.
As Heather stated in her 30 Day Gratitude Challenge, I do like the snooze button. Usually, when my alarm goes off, I snooze it a few times. The first time is to give me a moment to wake up and start to focus. The second time starts my morning gratitude ritual.
You see, before I even get out of bed, I try to take five minutes to think back on the things that I am grateful for in my life. These can be simple things like being appreciative of the stranger that stopped and let me pull out in traffic yesterday when it was busy, or the customer that helped me pick up the item I dropped when my hands were full.
(I am one of those people that refuse to get a cart at the store because I am only getting a few things and end up overfilling my arms and dropping things.)
I then start adding other things I am grateful for onto those.
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I start what Ed Mylett calls gratitude stacking. I first heard Ed Mylett talking about gratitude stacking on an episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu. In his interview, he discusses the importance of gratitude.
I had a really good friend of mine, I went to lunch, and he said, “I don’t know who this guy is here, in front of me.” And he goes, “Let me ask you a question. Honestly, right now, what are you grateful for?” And at the lunch, I said, “Jack shit. Nothing, brother. There’s nothing good in my life right now.” And I’m not exaggerating this to you when I tell you this, and this is a factual story.
As I’m mouthing these words, two people walked in with an older man, both of them clearly were fighting cancer somehow. Both had lost their hair, one of the ladies had a bonnet on, and they were barely moving, and both walked by our table and gave me the most warm greeting, the warmest smile, as a stranger. And he goes, “That’s pretty freaking pathetic. You can’t find anything in your life to be grateful for right now?” And on the drive home, I’m not kidding you; I started to stack gratitude. I started to take inventory, because if you can find things to be grateful for in that space, man, is your life going to be rich when there really are external things to be grateful for.
Watch the full interview here: Tom Bilyeu and Ed Mylett
So on top of the small things I am grateful for, I start adding people, ideas, and events in my life that I am thankful for. Notable people and moments in my life.
- Like Heather and where we are in our lives right now.
- Or our kids and the beauty and meaning they bring to our lives.
- I start remembering things from my childhood and the lessons my parents taught me that help make me who I am
and I express my gratitude for the life that I have. I do this before I even get out of bed.
It Feels Ridiculous
At first, I felt a little ridiculous doing this. How was thinking of all the things that I was grateful for going to help me have a better life? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to think of the things that I had to do that day?
But I kept at it, and the benefits slowly started to appear.
At first, they were minimal and hard to notice. When I was driving to work, I did not get as frustrated at other drivers as I did before. When I got to work, I had less tension for the coming day. I quit taking things as personally as I did before I started my gratitude routine.
A side benefit turned out to be that I started to become more thankful for the good things in my day and focused less on the negative things that happened. And the negative things that happened seemed less important than they did before.
By starting my day out thinking of the positive things in my life, it helped me to focus on the positive things in my day and try and turn the negative parts into something positive.
As I kept doing my morning gratitude, the benefits became part of my life.
Unconsciously I was looking at life a little differently. Instead of looking at things as being against me, I started letting things go. Doing this helped me focus more on what is important to me and let the noise of other things pass by me.
I really notice the effects of starting my day with gratitude when I fail to do it.
The mornings when I do hit the snooze button and fall back asleep and miss my morning gratitude routine are usually the days that things seem to go wrong.
The other day I woke up late and had to rush to get ready and to work on time. Things did not start well. I had trouble getting my contacts in, kept dropping and forgetting stuff on my way out the door. I took something Heather said completely wrong and started to get defensive before I even left the house. The traffic was terrible, and I was angry at the other drivers for being so slow. My day just seemed to be only slightly off the rest of the day.
It wasn’t until later that night that I finally realized why my day had seemed so off. It wasn’t Heather, or the drivers, or the people at work.
It was me.
It was my attitude and my perception of the day that made the day so different.
Start With Gratitude
When we start our days out with a sense of gratitude, with a sense that life is an amazing and precious gift, we look at life differently. You find what you look for in your life if you look for the negative, you are going to find it. But if you change the way you look at your life, if you start feeling grateful for what you have, you will begin to see all the positive that surrounds you.
Change your perspective on your life. Start by looking for and appreciating all the good things that are happening and have happened in your life. Be grateful for what you have, and you will find that life offers you, even more, to be grateful for.
Ready to give it a try? Take our 30-day gratitude challenge to get you started on your path to grateful happiness!