Those are all fine things to be thankful for. However, they’re such important parts of our lives, they come to mind quickly. But what about the “little” things that make your life better? The things that lie beneath the surface of your everyday life.
This post will help you get to the not so obvious things that enrich your life and start to change the way you look at your life.
Challenge yourself to go deeper
You probably already know that it’s beneficial to express gratitude daily. Making a gratitude list or saying aloud what you’re grateful for can make you happier because it disconnects you from negative thoughts and emotions and allows you to focus on something positive.
However, merely writing down what you’re grateful for and then checking it off your to-do list is not enough. To get the most from the practice, you must make it more than an intellectual exercise. You must feel the gratitude in your body because how you feel controls your vibration and what you attract into your life.
Practicing gratitude in this way can make a significant difference. And the good news is building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult. It just takes practice.
So, I encourage you to do one of following exercises each day over the next seven days. The more you can bring your attention to that you feel grateful for, the more things you’ll notice to feel grateful for, and the better your life will be.
Gratitude Challenge #1: Take a photo every day for a week of something that stirs your appreciation.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal can cause you to notice things—objects, special moments, small improvements—that you may have otherwise missed or taken for granted.
What good things in your life would you see if you took just a bit more time to look? This challenge will allow you to find out.
Each day for seven days, take a photograph of something that puts a smile on your face. Whether it’s your dog playing with a toy, an inspiring paragraph in a book, or your favorite sweater, take a few moments to capture it in a photograph.
As you zoom in on the object and the feelings it arouses in you, something else may happen inside. You may find yourself looking beyond your presumptions and old stories as you look at it with fresh eyes.
This challenge has an obvious reward: Whenever you need a reminder of what really matters to you, you’ll have your photos to look back on.
Gratitude Challenge #2: Put up gratitude “stop signs.”
If we’re not mindful, it’s easy to send our lives chasing after happiness — searching for the people, jobs, possessions, or philosophies that will lead to contentment. Many people think after they get “there,” they’ll have everything they need to be grateful for.
That’s a horrible way to live your life. It puts the relationship between happiness and gratitude backwards. It’s not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.
You see, to be grateful, you must do two things—Stop and Look. The problem is most people hardly ever stop and get quiet inside. Challenge #2 will help you do that by putting up stop signs in your life.
Start by setting your phone to “ping” you a few times a day as a reminder to stop and look around you (or to close your eyes and look inside) for something you are grateful for.
Putting sticky notes around the house, office, and in your car to prompt you to take a few moments to survey your surroundings and your life for what’s good can also be effective gratitude stop signs.
Gratitude Challenge #3: Look at your whole self in the mirror.
We are often our own worst critics when it comes to ourselves. So, stand in front of a mirror and hug yourself. Then, do the following three things:
• Point out three things you love about your body.
• Appreciate as many things as you can think of that your body allows you to do in everyday life.
• Say three things you love about your strengths, attitude, or accomplishments—and how each one makes your life better.
Gratitude Challenge #4: Pat yourself a pat on the back for your accomplishments in 2021.
For Challenge #4, ask yourself the following questions:
• What goals have you accomplished this year that your grateful for?
• Who has helped you this year that you are grateful for?
• Name a teacher or mentor that you are grateful for.
• Describe a rewarding milestone or event that you are grateful for?
• What qualities did you cultivate to be able to reach your goal or accomplishment?
Gratitude Challenge #5: Acknowledge the good in your daily routines.
We all have daily routines. Are there things you do every single day that you are grateful for?
Start by thinking about your morning routine. Your morning routine is particularly important because the things you do and the way you think each morning set the tone for the rest of your day.
Then, move through the rest of your day in your mind, thinking about the things you typically do—even super simple things.
Ask yourself the following questions:
• What’s something in your morning routine that you are grateful for?
• What’s something in your bedtime routine that you’re grateful for?
• Name three things you use every day that would be annoying not to have and why you are grateful for them.
Gratitude Challenge #6: Use your senses to identify new things that please you.
Get in touch with your sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. What are you grateful for regarding your senses?
Don’t write down obvious things—go deeper. Come up with a list of five tings you’ve never acknowledged before.
Gratitude Challenge #7: Go one day without complaining or thinking negative thoughts.
I left this one for last because it’s going to be harder than it seems!
For one day, go on a “mental diet” where you refrain from complaining or thinking negative thoughts.
This challenge will be more challenging than it seems, but it will be more than worth the effort because the food you feed your mind determines the quality of your days and life. And the thoughts you allow yourself to think and the subjects you allow your mind to dwell on make you and your surroundings what they are.
By doing your best to keep your mind from entertaining or dwelling on any negative thoughts, you will find that your day is more positive, productive, and satisfying.
Three tips to improve your practice
Building your capacity for gratitude helps you find greater inner peace, abundance, purpose, and build healthy habits.
As you start this challenge, here are three tips to make it as meaningful as possible:
• Be as specific as possible—specificity is key to fostering gratitude. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
• Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular person or thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
• Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
When the challenge is over, I encourage you to continue to look for ways to deepen and expand your gratitude practice. Cultivating gratitude changes lives. That’s a bold statement, but it’s backed up by science, theology, and experience.
While expressing gratitude doesn’t change your immediate circumstances, it does change your heart. And that sets the stage for improving your life from the inside out.
To your success,