It’s in our nature to recognize all that we lack rather than what we have. By adopting a simple lifestyle change, we can pivot our focus towards abundance, which can be transformative to our well-being. As we settle into 2024, building a habit of gratitude by acknowledging three things to be grateful for each day can dramatically improve one’s quality of life.
This daily habit, requiring minimal effort, has the potential to rewire our brains to seek and celebrate positivity, even on days that seem devoid of anything remotely joyful. It stretches our capacity for recognizing the good, the growth, and the serenity that lives just beneath the surface in our everyday lives. This simple practice can be seamlessly added as a routine with little to no disruption to your current existence.
The Why: Cultivating a Gratitude Practice
Choosing to practice daily gratitude is more than just eliciting a feeling of appreciation for material things — it’s a catalyst for change. Research across the web shows that expressing gratitude can enhance our overall well-being and improve our relationships and physical health. But moreover, gratitude also shifts our perspective and builds resilience with little effort. By pulling back the curtain during times of stress, we discover opportunities for growth that are tucked away within each challenge. We find a reason to exhale and release the tension in our shoulders within the present moment.
When we take the time to acknowledge the good around us, even when we don’t feel like it, we’re practicing mindfulness. Being fully present and engaged in the moment can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, helping us navigate challenges that sometimes plow through our lives unexpectedly.
Practice, practice, practice when everything is fine so that when it’s not, we have already developed a healthy reaction that feels like second nature. Gratitude allows us to celebrate, reward ourselves, and carve out a pathway for joy to surface more often.
The How: Implementing Gratitude into Your Life
So, how do you make gratitude a daily habit? It starts with commitment. Each night, before you lay your head down on your pillow, take a few moments to record three things that you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be monumental; in fact, they often aren’t. The warmth of the sun on your face, a thoughtful message from a friend, the satisfying glow of your fireplace — these small acknowledgements are worthy of your gratitude. By noticing the small things, like cause and effect, bigger things reveal themselves to you in time. You feel the warmth of the sun on your face today because you are healthy enough to take a walk outside. You received a thoughtful message from a friend because you are nurturing healthy relationships. And you get to sit by the fireplace because you have a good job that pays the mortgage. The more you allow yourself to notice, the more that will appear before you.
To habituate this practice, place a journal and pen on your nightstand as a physical reminder. Build it into your nightly routine like brushing your teeth. The growth may not be immediate, but over time, you’ll notice a shift in your mindset, a lightness in your perception of things, and a sense of the impermanence of challenges in our lives versus the enduring foundation of joy.
The Buddy System: Sharing Your Gratefuls
One of the most effective ways to keep your gratitude practice going is to have a gratitude buddy. This is someone with whom you can share your daily gratefuls. It creates a sense of accountability and shared satisfaction. Texting each other your list before bed can be a comforting end to the day while reinforcing the bond between you and learning a bit more about each other’s daily lives.
Persisting Through Challenges
There will be days when writing down your gratefuls feels like a chore, when stress and negativity seem all-consuming. On these days, the practice is most critical. Pushing through the resistance and finding even the tiniest glimmer of positivity creates new neuropathways. It’s those tough days that solidify the habit. Although it may feel like finding a needle in a haystack, you’re training your brain to find the light in the darkness.
Living a life of gratitude doesn’t mean life’s difficulties will bypass you and fall on some other unsuspecting soul. It just means you are choosing to appreciate the good amidst the bad. Through gratitude practice, we understand that joy and sadness, joy and anger, or joy and fear can coexist. By empowering ourselves to choose joy during difficult times, we discover that our emotions are choices. We begin to allow our emotions to be a product of us rather than being a product of our emotions.
Consistently practicing gratitude, even when we don’t feel like it, builds the muscle memory to see beauty in every experience. This develops resilience and an appreciation for life — serenity is the gift of gratitude.
As you grow through 2024, challenge yourself to adopt this lifestyle change. Write down three gratefuls every night, share them with a buddy, and watch your life transform — not because your circumstances have changed, but because your perspective has. This is the year to choose gratitude practice and to let that be the workout that surfaces your inner joy and serenity.
Meet Our Contributor — Rachel Miller
Rachel Miller, a gratefully recovering alcoholic and stroke survivor, embodies resilience and hope. Through her Recovery Daily Podcast, she embraces the transformative power of one’s voice in sharing experience, strength, and hope with others. Her podcast, born from stepping back from her beloved career due to post-stroke neurological challenges and chronic pain, is a chronicle of her recovery journey. Rachel’s narrative intertwines personal growth with the challenges of mental health, alcoholism, and stroke aftermath. Her vulnerability in confronting the unseen illnesses deep within is a testament to embracing discomfort, surfacing joy, and discovering purpose within the journey of recovery.