Reflection is a necessary component of the journey to happiness, and without it we can't be clear where we have been or where we are going. Yet many of us feel uncomfortable sitting down and really absorbing reality or assessing where our feelings lie. We tend to see moving onto the next thing (and then the next thing) as the normal process of going through life. But we can all benefit from taking more time to reflect on what we have before we focus on being or gaining "more" - especially around the holiday season.
Recognizing the amazing things that already fill your life tends to suggest two false ideas: that you are finished with your work or you're gloating about your success. We all know that these aren't necessarily true, but they can keep us from acknowledging the hard work we've done or accepting the ample positivity that already exists in our lives.
A gratitude practice has the power to shift negative thought patterns and it only takes a moment to jot something down. The idea behind practicing gratitude is that it stops you from chasing happiness and lets you see that it's right in front of you. Once you get writing, you'll instantly realize the bounty of good things that exist for you already. Building a more positive outlook will in turn improve the project, relationship etc. that feels like it isn't going too well.
Signs you could benefit from a gratitude practice:
- more times than not, you feel things don’t go your way
- you struggle to stay happy in your relationships
- you find it hard to be positive
- you know that you should be grateful, but you don’t know how to get out of your funk
Use the following gratitude prompts to get the juices flowing. Tell yourself you will start with answering the question with one or two sentences or bullet points, allowing yourself to write more if you feel inclined. You can do this practice in the morning with just 2-3 minutes, or use it as a way to reflect on your day and wind down for the night.
If you're worried about making this habit stick, you can choose to put the prompts into your phone so that you can answer them no matter where you are. In place of checking social media (which causes feelings of isolation and anxiety) while in line, you could jot down a quick response to that day's prompt. As with many things, this challenge will be much more enjoyable if you do it with a friend, partner, coworker or family member. You can agree to do one prompt each day for 30 days, or just take the prompts that resonate with you.
- What about my surroundings (home/neighborhood/city/etc.) am I thankful for?
- What happened this month that I am grateful for?
- What is the best thing that has happened this year?
- What have others done that I am benefiting from in my life (even if I don’t know who those people are)?
- What am I able to offer others that I am grateful for?
- What is different today than it was a year ago that I’m thankful for?
- What interaction(s) have I had lately that I’m grateful for? (the funny barista? the gentle smile from the person you walked past in the grocery store? the compliment from a co-worker?)
- What have I learned lately that I’m grateful for?
- What do I find fascinating? Can I be grateful for that fascination?
- What physical sensations am I grateful for right now?
- What tool or technological innovation makes your life better?
- What is the best gift you ever received?
- Who was your most inspiring teacher?
- Where do you feel most safe?
- What song(s) fill you up with joy, make your feet move, or your voice sing?
- What do you love about the city you live in?
- Name one thing in your life that may be hard to recognize with gratitude.
- What traditions do you enjoy most?
- What have you accomplished that made you most proud?
- What makes you laugh out loud?
- Have you stopped to take note of nature today?
- How has your most difficult challenge strengthened you?
- What or who is the biggest gift in your life right now?
- Remember the last time you had an amazing meal
- What are you looking forward to most in the next year?
- What piece of art are you grateful for?
- What friend or family member are you grateful for today?
- What made you smile today?
- Who is your best friend?
- What are you grateful for when it comes to your coworkers?
On days you're struggling to stay positive, go back and read this journal. It can be eye-opening to see your own words describing what you have going for you, and be enough to pull you out of negative thinking. Once you get started with this practice you’ll have a deep picture of the gratitude in your life and have more clarity going into your day, week and even year. So grab a friend and use the next 30 days to shift your perspective and start seeing the good.