I was never interested in a gratitude practice. I love to write stories, even essays are fun. (I am a proud nerd.) But writing in a journal has always been something I would pick up for a few days, then drop for a few years. I still do not do much journaling. But over the past few months I have come to appreciate, even feel gratitude for my gratitude practice.
There is not much to it. In the evening I write down three good things from the day. They might be simple, like laughing with a friend. Or small, like a moment when the sky looked perfect with bright fall leaves and blue sky. I write them down. I remember those moments.
Then I write down one thing for which I am grateful. This is not a moment or event. It is often a person or people, like a friend, family member, or my students. Sometimes I am thankful for an aspect of my life, like my meditation practice, or even just the fact that I still breathe.
Science seems to corroborate the sense of well-being I feel after writing these things down. A UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center study in 2008 found that gratitude boosts serotonin and dopamine (those feel good chemicals) in the brain. It also can lower stress levels, increase the desire to exercise, reduce depression, and improve sleep according to a 2009 NIH study. Maybe if I had researched the effects of cultivating gratitude before now I would have started my own practice sooner!
Is a gratitude practice right for you? Try it! Maybe it will light you up. And if it does not, that is okay too. Let it go. Keep trying things until you find the practices that make your soul sing.
What are three good things that happened today? What are you grateful for? Comment on this post, or print out the image below to spend time coloring and writing down what you are thankful for. Let’s share our gratitude and make it grow.