“I tried the gratitude list but I quickly got bored with it. I just kept writing the same things every day.” -Client
I remember coaching my client after a session and we were talking about the importance and power of creating a Happy Journal.
The Happy Journal is a special journal that you reserve for happy memories…vacations, tender moments with a lover, awards and accolades, special family time, a gratitude list. In other words…happy thoughts.
When I mentioned the Happy Journal to this particular client, it brought up a memory of when she had forced herself to think of things to be grateful for every morning. In so doing she had unwittingly linked a negative association to something that was intended to help cultivate love and gratitude.
But then I reflected on what she said, and I wondered if anyone else had experienced this. In fact, as I reflected I could recall from my own experiences a time when making a list of things to be grateful for felt like a chore.
So what to do? There is so much research on the power of cultivating gratitude as a catalyst to improved mood and over all health. How do we be sure that we are cultivating a productive and useful practice?
First, it’s important to recognize that gratitude is a feeling that is generated from grateful thoughts. You can only ever feel grateful when you are thinking grateful thoughts. Just as you can only ever feel bored when thinking boring thoughts (or stress from stressful thoughts, insecure from insecure thoughts, etc) It is a one to one correlation, thoughts/feelings… they are two sides of the same coin.
Next, check in with yourself in the morning and be present. So many times we get out of bed in the morning and go through our routine like zombies. We can be totally unaware of what we are thinking as we mindlessly go through our daily habits of coffee, shower, dressing…
Instead pause, check in with yourself, and notice how you are feeling. Are you feeling good and excited to start your day? Or are you thinking about all of the things that you have to do but are less than thrilled about? Take a moment to pause and reflect on the thought/feeling connection.
Take a breath and for just 5 seconds give yourself permission to allow all of the stressful thoughts to drop away…just 5 seconds.
From this space, begin to ask yourself what you are grateful for. You can start by looking around your immediate environment.
It can be helpful to write it down, especially if this is all new to you. Start by writing every morning until you find that your mind automatically goes there, first thing. Remember to check in with how you are feeling right when you wake up.
And if you find yourself drifting into other thoughts such as…
“This is a chore” or “I’m bored with this.”
…recognize that what you are feeling is not gratitude.
Search your mind for something to be grateful for and then ask yourself: “How would I feel if I no longer had this?”
How would you feel if you no longer had that roof over your head? How would you feel if you if you didn’t have a car, food in the fridge, all four of your limbs?
By mentally negating things that you already have, you may find that cultivating grateful thoughts and a feeling of gratitude comes when viewed through this more powerful perspective.
Thoughts are like the rudder on the ship that is your life experience. Set your path each morning and enjoy the ride.