Yes! The RULES!!
Seems a little ominous doesn’t it. And to be fair - a successful gratitude practice can be interpreted in so many different ways.
And there really are no rules but I do have suggestions to help you create a habit that actually gives you results.
In what has become quite a landmark study on Gratitude in 2003 by Emmons & McCullough
(Robert Emmons -has been researching these topics since 1984 with many published findings and is now considered the number one Gratitude expert, and Michael McCullough)
the main finding showed that a daily gratitude practice had impressive physical as well as emotional benefits that lasted for months after of stopping the practice.
Lets take a look at some of the benefits. higher levels of
- positive emotions,
- life satisfaction,
and lower levels of
- depression and
Participants experienced benefits like
- less aches and pains
- better quality and length of sleep
- feeling more positive about the week ahead
- greater desire to exercise
- more likely to make progress towards goals
- higher reported levels of the positive states of
- In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in
- greater amounts of high energy
- positive moods,
- a greater sense of feeling connected to others,
- more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and - better sleep duration and sleep quality
A follow up study in 2008 focusing on children found that
- Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families
Practicing gratitude literally makes your life better!!
So why not add it in to your daily habits!
And while there are no real RULES, here are some guidelines so that you get the biggest bang for your buck - so to speak.
The Rules / Guidelines
Quality over Quantity
Gratitude has no ‘shallow’ meter.
Gratitude doesn’t like ‘fake news’
There‘s no maximum
You choose your ‘how’
1. Quality over Quantity
The practice of gratitude is more about the emotion of gratitude and less about the ‘list’.
Rather than merely listing off things you’re grateful for, it’s more impactful if you focus on HOW that thing made/makes you feel.
2. Gratitude has no shallow metre
When I work with clients to create a gratitude practice, I find a LOT of them over think it. This practice is not about being deeply spiritual and focusing on things like world peace!
Its ok to be grateful for your favourite pair of shoes, a good hair day or your kick butt 6 pack, if those are things you really FEEL grateful for.
Gratitude isn’t measuring whether the things you’re grateful for are ‘shallow’.
So show up raw and real. Focus on things that actually make you smile / happy / grateful!!
3. Gratitude doesn’t like ‘fake news’
While you’re practicing gratitude, it can be tempting to focus on things that you think you ‘should’ be grateful for :
- your adoring/ adorable partner
- your wonderful children
If you’ve had a rough morning, arguing with your children or partner - today is not the day to focus on how grateful you are for them!
Maybe save them for the day you’re really feeling the love and appreciation.
Its ok to be grateful for the same things you were grateful for yesterday, and it’s ok to be grateful for something completely new.
If you’re feeling really stuck think about the things you might take for granted
- access to fresh water
- any or all of your 5 senses
- a roof over your head (if you have that)
- supportive friends / family
- food in the fridge / cupboard
- a hot shower
- your mobile device - connection - the internet
- your favourite shoes - socks - outfit
- technology (washing machine, fridge, tv)
- access to education
4. There‘s no maximum
You may see things like
- think of 3 things you’re grateful for
- take 5 minutes and focus on gratitude
however, there’s no maximum. If you’re enjoying the process, if you feel like you’re getting into flow - go with it.
And, if you’re feeling stuck - just spend more time focusing on the FEELING of whatever you have come up with today.
One approach I learned from Vishen Lakhiani (creator of Mindvalley) which I love and use
1 - focus on things you are grateful for in your daily life
2 - focus on things you are grateful for in your career
3 - focus on things you are grateful for about yourself!!
I love number 3 as it gives you an opportunity to appreciate your strengths, your special qualities. It’s an opportunity to treat yourself the way your best friend might treat you.
5. You choose your how
I was first introduced to idea of ‘practicing’ gratitude by Carol Look (an EFT Master) in 2008. Her suggestion was to take a daily gratitude walk.
This entailed spending your time while out walking, looking for things that make you smile, feel happy or appreciative about life. It could be as simple as a bird chirping, a dog wagging its tail or the colour of the leaves on trees or aroma of flowers in a garden.
I took that idea and ran with it - in our house we did
- gratitude breakfast, where we basically took turns to say things we were grateful for that morning.
- gratitude drives (same as above but while driving rather than breakfasting!)
Then of course there’s journaling and just thinking through things.
You could try habit stacking and add a gratitude practice to something you already do daily
- like brushing your teeth.
so maybe spend your 2 minutes (YES! You’re supposed to be brushing your teeth for TWO whole minutes!) brushing and thinking through things that you’re grateful for at the same time.
- while you’re making your morning coffee or make your bed .....
There‘s no right or wrong way, so you can choose your how. The main thing to embrace is creating a daily habit of focusing on things you’re grateful for.
And enjoy the benefits of this simple habit.