By Alexa Santory
Practicing Gratitude: A How-To Guide
The month of November marks the official beginning of the holiday season. It’s when the seasons really start to change, days become shorter, staying at home sounds much more appealing, and oh man is it Thanksgiving already?! November reminds us that we have a lot to be grateful for.
Life tends to speed up around the holidays. There are work parties to attend, holiday shopping to complete, and quality time to be spent with the family. Does it ever slow down before January 1st? Not if you don’t let it. We’re gonna talk gratitude and how you can start practicing more this holiday season and moving forward!
1. Gratitude Journaling
Practicing gratitude is more than just saying thank you to the barista who made your coffee, or telling a friend you appreciate a favor they did for you. Practicing gratitude and practicing mindfulness go hand in hand. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, in someone else’s situation, and trying to feel how they would feel under certain circumstances. It’s knowing that everyone is going through something, big or small, quietly or out in the open. It’s the ability to be aware in the moment. Gratitude and mindfulness are excellent tools to help you navigate through life because they help make things that seem scary, a bit less intimidating.
These two practices force you to focus on what’s right in front of you instead of what’s 20 steps ahead. It’s one of the many forms of self care and self-love that we should all take more time to practice. For those of us who experience anxiety, whether it’s clinical or less severe, learning to practice mindfulness and gratitude will help ground you and help ease anxious feelings.
One of our favorite ways to practice gratitude? Journaling. We’ve talked about journaling quite a bit and how it has therapeutic properties some of us may need. What makes gratitude journaling different is that it is pure, unadulterated positivity. Simply put, it’s the practice of writing down everything positive in your life that you are grateful for. Stating your gratitude for the things in your life, no matter the size, will give you the opportunity to start thinking more positively and stop you from focusing on what you don’t have. Think of negative thought patterns as a spiral — once you start, it’s almost impossible to stop it from spinning out of control. Taking the time to stop, remember, and appreciate what you have will ground you and start your mind on a more positive line of thinking. Your worries will dissipate, you won’t be as concerned about things that don’t exist in your life, and you’ll start attracting some pretty awesome rewards from the universe. Here are some of our top tips for getting started on your gratitude journaling!
Quality over quantity
Journaling often is a great and productive way to get pressing feelings off of our chests. Gratitude journaling works best when you do it less often than regular journaling--hence, quality over quantity. Writing down what you’re grateful for at least once a week has a more positive effect on our minds and thought patterns than doing it a few times a week. Focusing on the quality of what you’re writing down will force you to hone in on more particular things and feelings rather than saying “I’m grateful for my dog” three times a week.
Go into detail about the thing you’re grateful for. Identify the exact feeling it gave you and jot it down to remind yourself of that feeling when you feel like you’ve lost it. This will keep you from writing down a bunch of little things and keep you focused on the bigger picture.
Think of things you’re better off without
Blessings come in so many shapes and sizes. Sometimes, those blessings are things that are no longer in your life. When you’re journaling, don’t be afraid to focus on things you feel that you would be happier without. It’s more effective for getting your mind on a positive path.
Making the conscious decision to be happier before getting into your gratitude journaling will make the process feel more genuine. You’ll have a deeper understanding of your gratitude and it’ll be easier to identify the superficial things that may have been making you happy before. Adopting a happier mindset before writing down what you’re grateful for will give you a much deeper appreciation for what you have!
Oprah reads entries from her first gratitude journal!
Gratitude At Your Fingertips
The internet — a rabbit hole of negativity and superficiality OR a place to learn productively learn gratitude? It’s both; with a whole lot more of the former thanks to social media. We often fall victim to the negativity and deception the internet often shows us. Social media isn’t very good for our mental health, tbh. But what if we used these platforms, this world of information at our fingertips, for something more positive?? It seems unheard of in this day and age, but finding the positivity through the muck is our only hope for a better mindset!
2. Best Mindfulness Apps to Download
Headspace: this meditation app has a 4.9 star rating on the App Store and it was also my first foray into the now vast world of meditation apps. It’s got guided meditation, mindfulness practices, and SOS guides for moments of panic. Headspace has a little bit of everything rolled into one easy-to-use (and honestly adorable) app. The free version of the app offers a decent range of practices to choose from. You can also subscribe and unlock the entire catalogue. The mindfulness guides in Headspace are excellent for learning to be present in the moment!
Happy Not Perfect: this app also has a 4.9 rating on the App Store and its super comprehensive! The goal of Happy Not Perfect is to keep the mind clear, collected, and balanced. There are guided meditation options, games to help you relax, and there’s even an option to log the things you’re grateful for!
Grateful: if carrying around a journal isn’t quite your thing, download this journaling app right to your phone! This app has a 4.8 rating and over 1,000 reviews on the App Store. The tagline is “focus on what truly matters,” which pretty much sums up the whole purpose of the app! It’s a great way to introduce gratitude journaling into your life and you can look back on entries anytime you like.
1 Second Everyday: this app takes appreciating the little things to a new level. 1 Second Everyday allows you to record second long snippets of your life that eventually culminates into a larger movie full of highlights of your life. It’s a great way to take note and appreciate the quieter, smaller moments in life; the moments that seem fleeting. If writing isn’t quite your thing, this app might be what you’ve been looking for!
3. Gratitude on Instagram
Instagram often seems like the last place on earth to find genuine gratitude and mindfulness. The social media platform isn’t entirely superficial, though. Before deleting your account completely because you’re tired of how ~perfect~ everyone seems to be all the time, refocus your searches and follow one of these gratitude and mindfulness charged accounts!
@Marianopeccinetti: This visual artist uses the platform to promote his third-eye opening collage-form images. His posts use elements of everyday life mixed with otherworldly, and sometimes intergalactic, imagery. They’re bright, colorful, deeply creative, and make the everyday things look a little bit more special.
@Humansofny: This uber popular Instagram accounts focuses on everyday people and their human experiences. The posts and the stories are raw, emotional, and completely unrehearsed, leaving us with the feeling of a closer connection to complete strangers. HONY is easily one of the most inspirational accounts on Instagram because of its complete lack of anything calculated. There’s no doubt about the pure emotion behind each story, adding a much needed human element to an otherwise superficial platform.
@Deepakchopra: One of the leading minds in the practices of meditation and mindfulness, Deepak Chopra’s Instagram is full of inspirational quotes, motivational videos, and powerful affirmations. This is a great account to follow if you want to be reminded of your power as a human being.
@Cleaneatz: Who doesn’t love a good food Instagram?? Especially when all the food on the Instagram is 100% clean! Greta, aka the mind behind @cleaneatz, makes daily posts showcasing beautiful, delicious, healthy foods with recipes. A happy mind starts with a happy tummy! This is a good place to start if you’ve been meaning to clean up your diet.