We all know that notions of self-care have been on the rise lately, and that’s for good reason. With so many of us feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or depressed about work, relationships, body image or finance (as well as those overarching global issues like the pandemic, climate change, systemic racism) – there’s no wonder it all gets too much sometimes. And so, discussions and suggestions of self-care are on the rise, with many companies and startups launching campaigns, products and services to help us to improve our self-care. Some of these ideas are wonderful, but some big brands seem to be profiting and capitalising from the self-care movement. We’ll save that discussion for another day. Here, I want to talk to you about the practice that has boosted my mental health hugely in recent months, and it doesn’t need to cost a penny. It’s making gratitude a habit, and reminding myself to be grateful every day.
In January, I wrote all about how grateful I was that I had got into the habit of, well, being grateful. Head to that post for more detail about my ‘journey’ with gratitude. In a nutshell, though, last year I began to see a therapist. Throughout several sessions, she helped me a lot, but one of the key things she taught me was the importance of gratitude.
Why is making gratitude a habit a good idea?
As I said, tracking gratitude has helped me improve my mindset more than any self-care initiative.
Firstly, it helps me to look at life more positively. It’s not about being unrealistic and being happy and full of joy all the time, but it is about noticing one or two good things that have happened to you – or that you’ve made happen – and being pleased about them. Even on the darkest of days, it’s so helpful to look back and notice what good there has been. In fact, I think it’s more important on the days it’s harder to think of the positives.
Secondly, I think it’s made me less materialistic. Maybe that’s just me. Of course, I’m grateful for the expensive technology in my home, but at the end of each day, it’s rarely what I mention. Instead, I mention time spent with friends, long phone calls home, sunny weather, low air pollution, delicious food and the time spent cooking it with my boyfriend. Intangible things are what I note down more regularly than physical things I’ve bought. Except my bed. I’m often grateful for my bed, especially when practising gratitude in the morning!
Thirdly, gratitude helps us remember the good times. We reflect on them when we mention them or write them down, but those notes also stay with us. I sometimes look back at what I said I was grateful for months ago, and it’s so nice to remember!
There are physical health benefits too. Ending the day with some gratitude helps us sleep better, because we snuggle down with a positive feeling rather than one of anxiety or stress. Apparently, those practising gratitude also have fewer symptoms of illness.
So where should you begin?
Gratitude swiftly became a habit as I began to see the benefits quickly. If you don’t already, why not see if you benefit from making gratitude a habit? Here are just a few ways that you can bring gratitude into your routine, or even just give it a try today!
- Tell someone:
The simplest way to start, I found, was simply telling someone what you are grateful for each day. I live with my boyfriend and we are now well into the habit of telling each other a minimum of 3 things just before going to sleep. Why not try that with your housemates, partner, or even your parents? Alternatively, if there’s no one at home you want to share this with, then ask a friend to be your gratitude accountability partner. Each day – or as regularly as you agree – text each other 3 things you’re grateful for.
Whoever you tell, it doesn’t need to turn into a long conversation. Just the act of thinking about it and telling someone is enough for your day to end on a positive. Plus, it’s always lovely to hear if someone is grateful for something that you did that day!
- Note it down on your phone:
If thinking of 3 things every day seems a lot, then why not create a list on your phone or computer? Anytime something happens that you’re grateful for – a rainbow on a damp walk one day, your boss acknowledging how hard you’ve been working, your friend sending you a card – note it down. Soon, you’ll have built up a list of things that you can look at and remember when you’re having what I call a ‘rainy day’. A list of positives to pick you up and make you smile!
- Create a spread in your bullet journal:
If you want your collection of things you’re grateful for to be offscreen, why not add it to a bullet journal (or any notebook!). Find your journal and create a ‘gratitude spread’ of what you’re thankful for at that moment. Keep it a simple list, or if you’re creative, why not add drawings and doodles alongside so it’s a lovely page to look at too?
There might only be a couple, or you might think of a dozen! But you can always come back to it and add more.
I buy my bullet journals from Papier. Use my ‘refer a friend’ link here for £10 off your first order (and I’ll get £10 too!) They have so many beautiful designs that can be customised and personalised!
- Write what you’re grateful for in your journal or diary everyday:
An alternative to the ‘gratitude spread’ is to note one or two things in your journal on a daily basis. Perhaps you could write these in your diary, or what I did was use a page in my bullet journal alongside my ‘line a day’ page (where I jot down what I did each day). I used to fill this in every evening.
More recently, my friends sent me the Five Minute Journal. I love it, and use it every morning and evening. This is a journal with quick prompt questions, so if you’d prefer having that then this is a good option over a bullet journal. This flipped my routine on its head, as listing 3 things you’re grateful for is in the morning section. So, even though it’s sometimes hard to think of three when I’m groggy-eyed at 5:45am, it always helps me get my morning off to a good start. This combined with telling my boyfriend 3 things in the evening is a great way to start and end each day!
- Set up a gratitude jar:
Grab yourself an old jam jar and some little bits of paper. Coloured paper would be nice! Either note down and fold up several reasons to be grateful one day, or add a few each week. The jar will look cute on your desk or bedside table, and it’ll be a nice reminder to be grateful every time you notice it. Maybe say to yourself that at the end of the month/year, you’ll read through them all.
- Just pause for a moment and tell yourself!:
If all of the above is a bit much or too ‘woo-woo’ for you, then well done on sticking with me until point 6! Perhaps you can’t be bothered with writing it down, won’t stick to a daily habit and don’t want to talk about it with anyone. That’s fine! For now, why not just occasionally stop and tell yourself?
If you’re out on a walk, or you’re feeling particularly stressed about something at work, just pause for a moment. Try to remind yourself of 5 things you’re grateful for. Or more!
As you get more into the habit of noticing what it is you’re thankful for, you’ll likely find you can think of more and more each time. Last week, I was in a massive grump one day. I made myself head out for a walk and, part way through, decided to think of some reasons to be grateful. By the end of my walk, I’d hit 30. 30 things I could say that were worth being pleased about. 30 people, places, hobbies, experiences and things in my life that I was happy to have. Of course, there’s so many more than 30, but to be able to think of that many on a grumpy, drizzly walk made me realise that there wasn’t really any need to be moody at all!
I hope this has given you some ideas for how you can make gratitude a habit in your life.
Let me know in the comments if you’re going to give any of these ideas a try! I hope this helps you look at life through some *slightly* more rose-tinted glasses (because whatever is going on, there’s always something to be grateful for!).