The holidays are here, which means… stress.
And while there are lots of good ways to reduce your stress, an often overlooked antidote to holiday overwhelm is a formal gratitude practice. Which simply means, taking a little bit of time each day to deliberately reflect on what you’re grateful for.
Even if we can’t remove all the negatives from our lives, adding in more positives (or remembering the positives we already have) can have an overall uplifting effect.
While the popularity of formal gratitude practices has taken off lately, like any habit, it can be tough to actually establish and stick with. Thankfully, you don’t need god-like willpower and discipline to make time for gratitude. You just need an easy routine to follow.
Here are a few simple steps you can take to begin practicing gratitude in your life, the benefits of which are myriad.
1. Use your phone
For better or worse, we’re all glued to our smartphones these days. But we can take advantage of this fact to practice gratitude better.
Commit initially to using your phone to practice gratitude.
While you may like the idea of practicing gratitude in a beautiful, artisanal leather-bound journal, the most important thing when starting any new habit or routine is to just get started and stick to it.
Once you’ve successfully established a habit of practicing gratitude, by all means, move on to a fancier analog method. But using your phone is a good way to just get started because it’s always with you.
Here are two steps to get yourself set up to practice gratitude with your phone:
- Create a note in your phone’s Notes App called “Gratitude.” That’s it.
- Set a recurring daily reminder to “practice gratitude” at the most convenient time of day.
Technically challenged? Here’s a quick video that will show you how to set a gratitude reminder on your phone:
2. Find the right time
I’ve worked with dozens of people to start keeping some form of gratitude journal or diary, and in my experience, the evening is the best time for most people.
The evening tends to be a little quieter, plus you’ve had a full day’s worth of experience to (hopefully) be grateful for.
Some common evening times to practice gratitude include:
- Immediately after putting the kids to bed.
- First thing after getting into bed.
- After finishing the dishes.
- Right before you brush your teeth.
One thing you’ll notice about all of these is that they are piggy-backed onto other existing habits. This is crucial for lazy people who want to establish a new habit, including practicing gratitude.
Pairing your new habit with an existing habit makes it far more likely that you’ll actually do it.
3. Keep it simple
You might need to sit down for this one:
You can practice gratitude in under than 30 seconds.
That’s right: establishing a daily gratitude practice can take about as much time as it takes to brush one quadrant of your teeth!
I recommend initially that you simply list one thing they’re grateful for each day.
Remember, in the beginning, establishing the habit is the most important priority. Once you’re in a good routine and it’s relatively automatic, then you can add more complexity.
Finally, remember that you’re not writing a dissertation on gratitude—a single sentence or phrase is good enough:
- I’m grateful for the way my daughters smile when I walk through the door after work.
- I’m grateful today on Veterans Day for all the people who have served in the military.
- I’m grateful for these AMAZING new socks I got.
- I’m grateful that my wife is so patient and understanding with me when I screw up.
A few final thoughts:
- I like to start each item with “I’m grateful for…” but you don’t have to.
- Specific is always better than generic. I’m grateful for the clean bathrooms at work is better than I’m grateful for a nice place to work.
- There’s no reason your gratitude list or diary has to be permanent. Feel free to delete the previous day’s entry when you write a new one. It’s the act that matters.