Why starting a daily gratitude habit could change your life.
A daily gratitude habit is not a chore. It’s a gift to yourself.
“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”– Robert Holden
On Sunday, we went to Hefner Lake and watched the seagulls.
We watched our Bernedoodle chase the seagulls with primal canine joy.
And I watched my seven-year-old daughter find sea glass and oyster shells with a stunning pink interior with wonder and joy.
And I remembered.
My own upbringing was near Lake Michigan, and we went often enough to fill my childhood with memories of sea air, seagulls, warm sand, overflown ponds near the lake, and fish. The dead fish were not very pleasant, but everything else was magical.
I watched my daughter. How strange it was to be full circle yet a lifetime later, seeing myself in her, running around with joy and wonder, drinking in every bit of magic the sea can offer us, which is quite a bit, according to my memories.
I started shutting down parts of my brain that had become hyper vigilant in adulthood. Bills, business, work, social media, past trauma, relationship worries—one by one the windows closed.
And there was just that moment. My daughter, a mini-me, yet completely separate from me, a part of the future I’ll never see, yet an echo of the past.
Remember this? Remember life? It was and it will be again. What was comes back and is never lost. We forget it and we are poorer, but someone else picks it up and is richer.
The world sees another sunrise. The world invites another child to enjoy its wonders.
I wonder if the world mourns when the child grows up.
But if it does, that grownup has a child and the cycle starts over again.
My dog, a furry bundle of nothing but present-momentness, lost in the joy of chasing the seagulls away from the sea, as if guarding the precious shells and fish contained therein.
The years melted away from my brain and I stared at the sea.
I was a child again.
Daily gratitude fills you with wonder.
Each morning, I turn on a meditation app and use the time to jot down things for which I am grateful. Sometimes I’m not very connected to the practice. But I think that’s okay. I just make things the things I write down give me happiness or joy. There’s a lot of repetition.
Most mornings, however, I have gotten up early enough that it’s quiet and I can take a moment to appreciate the things for which I am grateful.
It gives me a relief from anxiety and worry to instead choose to focus on the good things I have, however small they are. (In fact, I’ve noticed that the smaller they are, the easier it is to be grateful for them and not worry that they’ll slip away from my life).
Daily gratitude is a relief from worry and anxiety.
It’s giving your mind a chance to rest on something that makes you happy. Far from the out-moded idea that you should chastise yourself for not “feeling grateful” or for complaining too much, a gratitude habit is simply setting aside a few minutes every day to think about things which make you happy.
Daily gratitude helps you appreciate what you have.
The purpose of gratitude is not to magically transform your life into one that is bearable for you. It’s not a magic pill that, once swallowed, erases suffering and removes burdens. I have a feeling those who avoid it do so because they feel guilty that it isn’t “doing” what it’s “supposed to.” It’s not supposed to do anything. It just is, and it’s a good thing.
Daily gratitude can actually rewire your brain.
Very few of us, myself not included, are naturally grateful people. That does not make us bad people, it just means that we suffer more than we need to. —Ryder Carroll
Gratitude works against our natural negative bias. A combination of mindfulness and gratitude is a powerful brain-rewiring duo that can work, over time, to train your brain towards calm, inner resilience, and a more positive outlook on life.
Since I’ve started my daily gratitude practice, I’ve noticed that when something bad happens, my brain more quickly finds the positive in a situation, as if I’m reading the clues of life’s events differently than I used to, using them to assume good things rather than bad things. I’ve never been able to find a disadvantage to this.
Daily gratitude works against the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome.
My day at the lake brought a deep calm I haven’t felt for awhile, though I get a taste of it every morning in my gratitude habit. By thinking of the beauty of the water, the oyster shells, and my daughter’s and pup’s happiness, I began to live in the moment. Living in the moment washed away the need to get somewhere in order to be happy. I don’t and won’t live this way anymore. While some give into this temptation based on a consumeristic and materialistic society, my brain was more so trained to be this way because I thought I had to be something to be accepted. More spiritual, more grown up, more frugal, more successful to prove that I was doing something right, more productive, more, more, more….
Less. I want less in life. I want chasing seagull and oyster shell moments.
Daily gratitude demands nothing of you and gives much in return.
You know what’s a cruel taskmaster?
They’re kind of the same thing. Making you a slave to an ideal you can never achieve.
You know what’s kind and freeing?
Remember that moment at the beginning of this blog post?
Being grateful for this moment demanded nothing of me, as it demanded nothing of my daughter. Nothing but to take in, close your eyes, and receive a gift.
The gift can be a mug of coffee.
The gift can be sea air.
The gift can be one moment in a day that makes that day worthwhile.
That gift can be a three minute nap.
Or the roses blooming.
But what good is a gift if you don’t even notice it?
I am so passionate about bullet journaling (habit tracking, daily gratitude, goal-setting, breaking down goals to steps, and memory-keeping) that I just had to create my own perfect bullet journal/hybrid to perfectly complement the method I’ve learned and adapted. Preorder it here.