Gratitude is a practice much like a yoga practice and involves training to improve. It has taken me several years to realize that I can’t force myself to be grateful. In fact, doing so causes the opposite effect which creates resentment, instead of gratitude. Brene Brown helped me understand this feeling more in her book Gifts of Imperfection: “Joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences. We are an anxious people and many of us have very little tolerance for vulnerability. Our anxiety and fear can manifest as scarcity.” This statement helped me understand why a gratitude practice can be such a struggle for me.
There is evidence pointing to the benefits of developing a gratitude practice to help with burnout and depression. As silly as it may sound, I found I need to train myself to be grateful.
The first step is to calm my nervous system. It is very challenging to be grateful when your nervous system is preparing you to fight, flight, or freeze. Since gratitude can be a vulnerable practice, it is ideal to create a safe internal environment (calm nervous system) and a comfortable external environment. I like to use breathing practices to calm my nervous system, I prefer a 10-minute practice in the morning
The second step is to notice one thing I am grateful for in the space I am in. This might include:
The decoration my husband bought for me in Mexico
My dog sitting right outside the room protecting me
My back feels good in the position I am in.
The third step is to expand my gratitude beyond the observation in my space to create a short statement.
I am grateful I have a thoughtful husband who gave me a beautiful decoration.
I am grateful my dog has unconditional love for me and likes to be close to me.
I am grateful that I have the ability to change my back discomfort and enjoy moments of comfort.
Depending on how I am feeling at the time, I may write this statement down or repeat it to myself several times. If I find myself getting nervous or having anxious thoughts throughout the day I use this statement to help redirect myself.
Please consider giving this practice a try and I would love to hear what statements you come up with.