Gratitude as a Practice

“Start each day with a grateful heart.”

We’ve all heard it. Intellectually, we know it makes sense. Gratitude changes everything. It helps us see things differently. It helps us appreciate where we are. It allows us to be present in the moment.

But how often do we really practice it? How often do we make an intention to either start or end our day with gratitude?

As with many things in life, we sometimes think it’s just another item on our to do list that we don’t seem to ever get to. Sure, we think we’re grateful. But we often don’t take the time to practice it. To truly savor how gratitude can
change us.

Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful” or “a readiness to show appreciation for and to return to kindness.”

I love the second definition. A readiness to show appreciation. If gratitude is just an item on our to do list, are we really ready to express it? Are we practicing an attitude of readiness to show appreciation?

A few years ago, I decided to make some major shifts in my life. I was learning the importance of gratitude in order to live life fully and to learn to be present. Setting the intention to practice gratitude was an important step in the process. It took time and practice, but I noticed a change in my attitude and perspective. Simply taking time to express gratitude for the simple things in addition to the big things was changing me. I was fascinated by the difference this made, so I looked for others who were talking about gratitude.

That’s when I decided to read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Wow. She describes gratitude in an unbelievable way. She shares how she is grateful for the smallest and tiniest details, and how this practice has changed everything for her. She takes it to a level of brilliance. It was a little overwhelming to read how naturally it came to her, especially since my own gratitude practice was just beginning. But it was beautiful!

It was a reminder to me that we all have to live our own journey. I wasn’t sure I could ever be grateful for the soap bubbles rising up when washing dishes, as she described. But I could certainly be grateful for the food that was served on the dishes, as well as the ability to physically do the dishes at the end of the meal!

It’s interesting that the more we practice gratitude, the more our thoughts and experiences change. We often see the world in a different light. Instead of focusing on the negative and what we lack, expressing gratitude for what we have can change our view. It can help us learn to see things that maybe we have overlooked in the past. It can help us learn to look for the good in everything. It can change us. And the even greater part is that once we allow gratitude to change us, it naturally has a ripple effect. Gratitude starts to flow through us and impact others near us simply out of our continued practice of expressing gratitude.

We’re kinder. More compassionate. More willing to see a new perspective. More generous with our words and actions. More loving. More aware of the needs of others. And more in awe of how truly amazing life can be. It’s just the start of what gratitude can do.

So how do we start?

In addition to Kelsey’s smart “Stop and Swap” technique which will help in the moment, try to do something daily. One of the simplest things that helped me was learning to write (or say) three things that I am grateful for every day. It can be first thing in the morning as great way to start the day, or it can be the last thing you do before you go to sleep. Or anywhere in between for that matter! Simply write a quick list and offer a quick prayer or thank you for the items or people on the list. It is amazing what a consistent practice of offering gratitude will do for your heart and mind.

I also love to write thank you notes. Yes, I said write, not type. Do you know the incredible power of a hand-written note these days? How would it feel to send a written note to someone who has been helpful to you? Or who went out of their way to do something nice for you? Let them know you are grateful for them with a simple note. You will be amazed at what this does for them, and also how it feels for you.

Texts and phone calls are also great ways to let someone know you are grateful they are in your life. It only takes a few minutes to send a sincere thank you or leave a voicemail for someone to let them know you appreciate them. Most of us have been blessed with some amazing people in our life. Whether it’s family,friends, teachers, leaders, or simply a neighbor, a simple expression of gratitude can change someone’s entire day. It begins with your willingness to share your gratitude.

Gratitude can be life changing. And it really is simple. It doesn’t require much time and effort. All it requires is our willingness to invite it into our life, to practice it, embrace it, and encourage it. Gratitude really does change everything when we are ready to show appreciation and return kindness to others.

What is one step of gratitude you can take today?

This article originally appeared in the March Issue of our monthly magazine alongside articles from other great guest contributors and Kelsey with exercises, apps and worksheets, plus behind the scenes details from each February episode. To get the magazine subscribe here, issues are FREE but they expire each month so sign up today and download as soon they're available or you'll miss out! Subscribe

Tammy Helfrich is a coach, speaker, writer, and podcast host. She loves helping people live into who they were created to be. She meets people right where they are and helps them uncover their hidden potential and break through barriers that are holding them back from living the life they desire.  She encourages you to find deeper meaning and inner wisdom in your life, in order to live fully and authentically. You can connect with Tammy at tammyhelfrich.com.


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