Not too long ago, I remember coming home from an event. I was by myself. It was the middle of the summer in Texas. My car’s air conditioner wasn’t working properly and would only cool when you were going at a higher rate of speed (50 mph or higher). I had dressed fairly nicely for the event (read not too comfortable or cooling). On my way home, I missed my exit. It was an exit I have missed before….one that takes you a good couple miles before you can get redirected. I was so angry with myself for missing that exit. Add to that some traffic and some construction…..and I was getting downright frustrated. I called my husband to complain and the downward spiral was in full effect. Try as he might, he was not able to cheer me up or help me shift focus. I got even more frustrated with him and said I needed to focus on the road so I didn’t miss my exit again. Then something “magical” happened. I remembered that gratitude changes things…
I began saying out loud some things I was grateful for. “I am grateful I have a car that runs.” “I am grateful that even with the higher price of gasoline, I have always had enough gas to get where I needed to go.” “I am grateful that the air conditioner in my car works at all.” “I am grateful that I was able to attend the event.” “I am grateful for my work.” “I am grateful for my family.” “I am grateful for my cats.”
It worked! My mood shifted. My circumstances did not shift. I was battling the traffic and discomfort of stiff clothes and the heat of the hot Texas sun. All that changed was what I was thinking. But it made all the difference. It took less than 5 minutes to go from grumpy and negative to smiling and joy. That was a solid a-ha moment for me! I’ve heard of the power of gratitude for probably 20 years. It sounded good enough, but I had never seen the power for myself. Later that year, I started a journal project of 100 Days of Gratitude. I mentioned this earlier, but that a-ha moment for me showed me that perhaps I needed to be more intentional. That particular project included me daily listing 3 things I was grateful for. I believe that we need to practice gratitude. I believe it needs to be intentional…or it goes to the wayside and we miss the magic. Here are some ideas to consider for making your own practice of gratitude:
- start small–list one thing you are grateful for today!
- take on a project–21 or 30 days, listing 5 things you are grateful for
- have a special gratitude journal (mine is pictured above)
- have an ongoing list of things you are grateful for….see if you can get it up to 100
- catch yourself when you are in a negative mood and try to find 10 things you are grateful for
I think that it is important to be genuine when you being grateful….it might be tempting to sound sarcastic if you are in a bad mod….find anything you can genuinely be grateful for and see if you notice a shift in how you feel. What are some other ways we could be become more intentional with our practice of gratitude? What have you tried? What have you noticed?