This is the time of year when we tend to think about being grateful – at least if you’re not already practicing gratitude regularly. After all tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a day we often associate with sharing the things we’re grateful for – before digging into the feast. Yet, it seems as a society we’re thinking more and more about gratitude – and the value gratitude has on our own lives. How often do you take time to consider what you are grateful for?
It can be all too easy to downplay and dismiss the value of expressing your gratitude – after all you’re busy and the things going right don’t require your attention, either in remembering or for problem solving. One day is enough, isn’t it, for sharing the things you’re grateful for?
Although we certainly don’t want to forget those things in life that need further attention from us, there is value in remembering all the things that went right, that there were things that we can be grateful for. Human nature is to focus on the negative, yet this just reinforces the ruts in our brain that can limit our thinking and perspective.
Earlier this year at the ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization) conference, one of the speakers talked to all of us about “Living Stress Free.” Lots of things can contribute to our stress level and the way they interact then has a further impact. Therefore, we can reverse the path to stress with some practice and tools. And you probably guessed it – one of those tools is expressing gratitude.
His recommendation was at the end of every week to count your blessing with these 2 steps: 1) recall 3 things from the prior week for which you are grateful and 2) acknowledge 3 things in your life (not time constrained, but overall) for which you feel blessed. He went on to share that research suggests that this practice translates into people with less depression and stress and that they are more likely to make progress on important personal goals.
New to me was that there is some evidence that counting your blessings once a week is more beneficial than doing it every day. I found contradictory information on this in my research – and overall that there is no consensus yet about the frequency. There seems to be no debate about the value of being grateful – of making a practice of it – as long as you don’t get so habituated to it. Consider the feelings that accompany being grateful – those are part of what benefits the brain.
Sometimes it can be challenging to find things that you are grateful for – whether you’re experiencing depression, a series of tough life events, or whatever else it might be that interferes with identifying the blessings in your life. Every organizing client that I’ve had has had areas where they are successful – though they don’t always recognize it. Search out the parts you are succeeding with – I insist there are some! 😉
Due to my worldview, the obstacles and struggles I’ve faced in my life are blessings – they helped me learn and grow. So even in the midst of a struggle, I can be grateful. That doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated or challenged, simply that I have confidence that it will in the long run be a blessing for my life.
Similarly, you can feel gratitude for the goals and desires you have. Where would you be without those? If you’re dealing with a cluttered living space and desire more order – can you acknowledge the strength and blessing of wanting it to change? This focuses on the positive – which will support us in moving forward.
We’ve probably all heard that “Thanksgiving was never meant to be limited to one day.” When we make a habit of gratitude we shift things for ourselves – we’re more resilient, more realistic about our self-worth (rather than pessimistic), and it helps us live mindfully in the present moment. With my approach of experimenting – if you find yourself resistant to the idea of making a practice of gratitude in your life, test it out. Commit to 2 weeks and just do it – and then observe – how do you feel? Has anything changed? In what ways?