Yesterday was a gorgeous Sunday here in NYC (so much that I was in a very grateful mood). It got me thinking about how gratitude improves our overall mood and increases our energy. And how it can be a part of a great self-care plan.
Oxford defines gratitude as: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. These days, some people wake up dreading the day (after all it’s Monday) and I’m guilty of that sometimes. But, my way of challenging the dread is to start off my day with gratitude. This positive habit is one that’s all over the internet with big names such as Oprah, Lin Manuel Miranda and others practicing it in real time. But, why?
Martin Seligman, psychologist and creator of Positive Psychology, notes “we think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives.” We get stuck in all the negativity in the news, internet and social media. Even the thought of stepping outside can bring on the dread of this negativity. So how do you change that?
In his book Flourish, Seligman writes “too keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.” We need to actively look for the good in our lives, especially as a daily practice to reduce how negativity affects us. Our thoughts, feelings and behavior can all be affected by negativity.
In the book, Seligman has an exercise called the “What-went-well” Exercise (also called “Three Blessings). Note, you can use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but you need a physical record of what you wrote. (Note: the event doesn’t have to be a huge thing, but can be important like the birth of a healthy baby.)
- Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep.
- Write down 3 things that went well today. Ex: My father asked me to hang out.
- Next, write down why they went well. Ex: It went well because he was thoughtful for including me in his plans.
If you’re feeling weird about this, it’s normal. If it’s not your usual thing, it’s okay for it to feel strange. Aim for doing it every night for a week and it’ll get easier. It’ll become more natural the more you do it. Seligman states “the odds are you will be less depressed, happier and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”
And that’s true for me, too. But, I don’t follow Seligman’s practice. I created my own after years of writing in a daily journal.
At least 5 days a week, I start off my day with my gratitude list in my journal. It’s part of my morning prayers and self-care plan. What this practice does is keep me reminded of the blessings I’ve got. All of the big and little things that show up in my life everyday that let me know that life is worthwhile and full of joy.
I do mine in the mornings and first I write out all the junk first. All that stuff that mentally weighs me down goes first and then I write everything I’m grateful for. Not only is this my gratitude list, it’s my daily prayer exercise. And when I don’t do it, I feel it. I feel the pressure, stress and the heaviness because geez, our mental life is ON 24/7. So when I skip it, I find that the negativity I feel will push me right back into my daily routine.
It’s also a great way to start off the day on a positive note. I’m in a great headspace to write, explore ideas and tap into positive energy first. If you already do this everyday, good for you for practicing good self-care. If not, read on below for two ways to practice more gratitude.
Remember, gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Try these two exercises and see how they work for you. They don’t have to be complicated and they don’t take very long. 5 – 10 minutes everyday is all you need. Try it and let me know how it works for you in the comments.
Find out more of my self-care secrets in my free guide below.
“Steal Your Time Back: 6 Secrets for Busy Working Moms”