November is a great month to dive into gratitude.  Being the month of Thanksgiving, it already provides us a day to be grateful with and for family, friends and delicious food.  I think it is fair to assume that most of us don’t limit being grateful to a single day of the year.  I also think it is fair to assume that we don’t always think of gratitude as a daily practice that that can impact our overall health and well-being.  Well, think again!  I would love to kick off the month of November with a deeper look at gratitude and by encouraging us to actively bring gratitude into our daily lives.

The study of gratitude is fairly new, with that being said you can do some pretty in-depth reading on the subject.  You can read about different definitions of gratitude.  Is it an emotion, a value, a concept, a biological attribute, a skill?  There is the discussion of the origin of gratitude.  Is it nature, nurture or both? How do both the individual and the societal factors affect gratitude?  What about the benefits of gratitude for the both the individual and society?  Lastly, how do we practice gratitude?  These are great questions and fortunately there are smart people thinking gratitude and doing great research to further our understanding.  I encourage you to take a look at The Science of Gratitude White Paper and see what the research is revealing about the power of gratitude.

I found my way to that paper because I have become increasingly interested in gratitude.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by wise, kind, and happy people in my life.  Even though they have diverse careers, interests, backgrounds, and experiences they do share a common attribute of practicing gratitude.  I am not talking about the drive by the fender bender and think to myself, “I am so grateful that was not me” form of gratitude.  I am talking about actively seeking and finding gratitude in the people, world and experiences that surround us.  So being a person that takes note of what works, I have jumped into this gratitude thing.  Here are the lessons I have learned so far:

  1. Small Stuff Counts – Sometimes it feels like gratitude is a lofty ideal and we need to be equally profound in our gratitude. It’s ok to be grateful for the cup of coffee, how much you love your new shoes, or that it’s a perfect temperature outside.
  2. Stuck Think Luck – In the beginning I heard myself thinking in terms of feeling lucky quite often. I re-framed that I thought to being grateful instead.  Try it out, there is a difference between feeling lucky and being grateful.
  3. Schedule It – It truly makes a difference in my day to set aside time to be grateful. I like to start each day writing in my gratitude journal.  I also carve out time in my walks to think about what I am grateful for right then.  Often times, it includes being on the walk!
  4. Challenge Yourself – Gratitude is a bit easier to practice when we are talking about the good stuff. And we should be grateful for the good stuff.  I encourage you to find gratitude in the tough stuff too.  Not that we need to be grateful for a traumatic or negative experience, but are there aspects of that experience that we can be grateful for? I find this to be a worthy chat to have with myself.
  5. Being Matters – A big a-ha for me was to start to understand the difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. Being is transformative, it changes me. Feeling is temporal, I remain unchanged after the feeling is gone.  Play with that idea and see what it brings you.

Of all the practices I partake in for my health and well-being gratitude is at the top of my list.  There are no special shoes or equipment needed.  I can do it anywhere.  There are no downsides or injuries.  I can do it alone or with others.  It is absolutely free.  Most importantly, when I am grateful, I have no wants, no regrets, no fear…for those precious minutes I am complete.