In a technology-driven world, we spend a lot of time absorbing the steady stream of information that is constantly coming our way. Sometimes I find myself sorting, managing and processing that information with the speed and agility of an acrobat. Other days I get bogged down by the mental strain, and I come home from work drained from information overload. There are many techniques for managing this swirl of mental activity, which, at its worst, can make us restless, disrupt our sleep, or manifest itself as long-term anxiety. Everyone deals with this stress from time to time, and some manage it better than others. As the holidays approach, I hope we all take time to calm our minds, enjoy special time with loved ones, and return to our daily schedules refreshed. I was chatting with a friend recently who shared her daily practice of gratitude reflection. It inspired me to think about something similar in my own life. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there’s no better season to launch your own personal gratitude campaign! Here are two simple techniques:
Set aside a few moments each evening to record in a journal the people and experiences that make you grateful each day. This daily practice brings intention and focus to the aspects of your life that make you lucky to be you! Some days you may write about big things you are grateful for – your children, your job, your home, etc. – and other days it can be a simple act of kindness – the person who let you ease into a congested traffic lane, or held the elevator. Taking the time for a daily act of gratitude will show you how wonderful your day really was: for even on a bad day you can always find something for which you are grateful. Gratitude is something that we often take for granted. For instance, while most of us are grateful for the teachers who have impacted us or our children, we rarely pause to think about it, or write down what an amazing gift that is, and how blessed we are to have such wonderful people in our lives. Setting aside the time to really appreciate these people on a daily basis is a calming, restorative practice; it allows you to channel your wandering thoughts and ground them in that which is rewarding, loving and good in your life. The day’s problems seem less overwhelming with a backdrop of gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to practice internal gratitude on a daily basis, but daily acts of gratitude can be expressed externally, too. One of my favorite ways to express my thankfulness is by sharing hand-written thank you notes. Sending thank you notes can be therapeutic, as John Kralik recounts in his bestseller, “365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.” He began sending hand written thank you notes – to his daughter’s piano teacher, a Starbucks employee, his barber, anyone who had done something nice for him, large or small. He found that this practice made him a happier person and changed his life for the better. You can begin this practice by sending a simple hand written note to someone in your office building, a neighbor, or even a co-worker. Not only will the recipient be touched by your gratitude, but you will feel refreshed remembering the kindness that inspired your note. During this season, gratitude is on many people’s minds, but giving thanks can be a year-round practice.