“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
You’ve heard it so many times before.
The importance of gratitude, that is.
Maybe you’re wondering “What’s the big deal, anyway?”
Let me ask you a question. If there was a pill that, if taken just once, would instantly transform your emotional well-being, physical health, and social relationships, would you buy it?
If you’re like most people, you’d probably think it was too good to be true. You might think the person selling you the pill is a charlatan or a quack. If you did believe the claims, you might be concerned about side effects.
Similarly, discussions about the benefits of gratitude can leave you feeling like it’s simply too good to be true. This may have the unintended effect of producing more gratitude skeptics than successful practitioners.
The part that is often missing or de-emphasized is the importance of developing a consistent gratitude habit.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude does take work, but it also works. The secret of those who’ve successfully used gratitude to transform their lives is their commitment to practicing gratitude on a daily basis – including those days when they don’t feel particularly grateful.
To give you the best chance of developing a life-long gratitude habit, here are 8 practices that you can do in one minute or less each day:
1. Thank one person every day
Decide to intentionally thank at least one person a day. You don’t need to wait for someone to do something significant for you. Make an effort to thank people who may often be overlooked – like the fast food worker or the janitor. But this also includes close family members and friends. Doing so will remind you to never take anyone for granted.
2. Keep a gratitude journal (with a twist)
Maybe you’ve heard the importance of keeping a gratitude journal by writing three things you’re grateful for each day. While this is certainly powerful, I recommend doing it the way Darren Hardy describes in his book The Compound Effect. In the book, Hardy recounted the story of how he recorded one thing he was grateful for in his spouse every day for a year. The process transformed his relationship with his wife – and it made for an amazing Thanksgiving present.
If there’s a relationship in your life you want to improve, start working on this habit today.
3. Take deep breaths
You may not immediately associate taking deep breaths with gratitude, but doing so will instantly trigger feelings of gratitude. You’ll be grateful for the pleasant feeling a deep cleansing breath brings. Then you’ll feel gratitude for a body that breathes for you. Before you know it, the stress of whatever you were doing before will fall away as your mind becomes flooded with images of people and things you are grateful for.
4. Pay attention
Take a minute each day to pay attention to your surroundings. What people or things do you see around you? Take delight in all the small pleasures you get to enjoy – like your morning cup of coffee or favorite books on the shelf or your pet sleeping quietly next to you.
5. Track your moments of spontaneous joy.
You can use pen and paper or technology to keep track of the spontaneous moments of joy each day. If you do the latter, be sure to use the reminder feature to help you develop your habit faster. You’ll reduce your stress in the moment. But the real payoff is being able to look back on your accumulated moments long after they are over so you can see how incredibly blessed you are.
6. Carry a symbol
One of the ways to become more mindful is to carry or wear something that reminds you to be grateful – like a bracelet, a stone, or some other small item. This is a great way to maintain mindfulness throughout your day. And mindfulness will increase your capacity for gratitude.
7. Give thanks before each meal
It could be a prayer or just a word of thanks for the person who prepared your meal. This gratitude habit will give you at least three easy opportunities to practice gratitude every day.
8. Take a look in the mirror
When you wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say “I am so grateful to be here today.” This is a powerful reminder that each day is a gift and should not be taken for granted. Don’t let another day go by without expressing gratitude for your own life. It will help you make every day count.
Unleash the true power of a gratitude habit
Yes, developing a life-changing gratitude habit does take work.
Some days you’ll feel instantly better – other days, you’ll barely notice the difference.
But if commit to doing just one of these practices for thirty, sixty, or ninety days, you’ll unleash the transformative effects of gratitude that will help you establish a lifelong habit.
So what are you waiting for?
Pick a habit that resonates with you from the list and start on your road to transformation.