Have you tried keeping a gratitude journal?
I used to write down 10 things I’m grateful for everyday.
In the beginning, I felt humbled that the universe took care of me day after day—It really was a miracle.
But after a while, my lists began to look the same: I’m grateful for my home, food, water, friends and family…
So I tried getting creative: I’m grateful for my bed, auto-save, chocolate, Netflix…
It felt good to practice gratitude. Yet the fuzzy sensation often wore off, especially when life felt tough.
I’d force myself to be grateful, even when I wasn’t. Guilt would sneak up behind me. And I’d wonder what was wrong with me.
Eventually, I learned that practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be so hard.
And it doesn’t even require a gratitude journal.
Why it’s hard to practice gratitude
All spiritual teachers encourage us to give thanks.
Fans of The Law of Attraction understand its key role in manifesting.
What’s more, studies show many benefits of practicing gratitude:
- Stronger immune systems
- Better sleep
- Lower blood pressure
- Greater sense of well-being
- Increased compassion and generosity
- Improved relationships
- More joy and pleasure
Simply asking, What am I grateful for? activates neural circuits, increases dopamine and serotonin and gives us a feeling of contentment.
The more we practice gratitude, the easier it becomes.
So, why is it so easy to not do it?
Stress is an undeniable factor. If our family, relationships or work overwhelm us, our practice probably falls by the wayside. We feel disconnected to ourselves and lose our center.
One could argue that it’s just a question of habit. If we put in enough effort, we’ll manifest our desires.
To my great surprise, some of us may be more genetically predisposed to gratitude than others. This means that some people may naturally “feel less sensitive to positive life events, but also super-sensitive to negative life events.”
Ooh, that resonated with me.
Growing up with a scarcity mindset certainly didn’t help me feel grateful. As much as I tried, my mind kept latching on to the fear of not enough. It sucked my appreciation dry for what I had.
Then, I beat myself up about taking things for granted. But that just weighed down my shoulders even more.
So, I put away my gratitude journal. I asked myself, What’s keeping me from feeling grateful?
Instead of resisting my work situation, body aches, relationship issues or past trauma, I opened wide the shutters in my mind.
I let the tension simmer in my body.
And accepted all of it wholeheartedly.
Gratitude is living in the moment
It’s not a task to cross off the to-do list.
It’s not a way to manipulate life to give us what we want.
Gratitude naturally arises when we fully experience the present moment.
I realized with amazement that once I embraced life’s hard knocks—and understood their role in my spiritual journey—it was much easier to feel grateful.
Opening up to my most difficult emotions let me access positive ones, like joy, peace and gratitude.
We have to learn how to slow down and appreciate the warmth of a chamomile tea, the pleasant aroma of roasted vegetables or a stranger’s humble thank-you.
Gratitude becomes an embodied experience, instead of a mental exercise.
You could certainly keep gratitude-journaling though. One of my readers writes down just one thing she’s grateful for each day. It’s best to keep it simple.
Others prefer contemplating the absence of something in their lives, bad times and even death. This may sound awful, but for some people, it helps shift their perspective.
Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh uses gathas to bring awareness to simple activities that we often take for granted.
For example, in the morning, we can breathe in and think, Waking up this morning, I smile. Then, we breathe out: Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
Inhale again: I vow to live fully in each moment. Exhale again: And to look at beings with eyes of compassion.
We can create our own gathas to infuse presence into our daily lives. Even a couple phrases will do.
Or, if you’re a minimalist like myself, you can simply acknowledge that this morning, you woke up… You’re alive!
Just savor all the small pleasures:
The last cherry tomatoes dangling from their stems. A cozy blanket. This simple meal with loved ones.
Connecting with yourself is enough
If our true selves are naturally grateful, then we must examine what’s blocking us.
I’ve learned that trauma can severely hamper our efforts to feel good for any extended amount of time. In that case, our priority should be to reconnect with ourselves.
For some people, practicing gratitude may look like journaling, contemplation and mental exercises.
For others, gratitude doesn’t come as easily. But if we’re curious—and courageous—we can deepen our understanding of our true nature.
And thus, gain greater clarity about our place in the world.
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Annie Moussu is a certified EFT Tapping Master Practitioner helping women build confidence, set boundaries & enjoy healthy relationships. Get her free EFT meditation & guide for people-pleasing.