I’ve recently adopted a practice where I name ten simple things I am grateful for each morning before my feet hit the ground. At first, it felt a little awkward, and I’ll admit that I initially couldn’t think of ten things beyond listing my friends and family. But then, with a bit of practice, the list grew, and I discovered that the simplest things shifted my thinking and the way I move through my day.
This was my gratitude list this morning:
- Rolling over to find a cool spot in the sheets
- My husband leaving the shower running for me
- A welcome ray of sunlight in the fir trees outside my studio window
- My pup, Ruby Sue, zooming around the house like a maniac
- A text from my son calling me a “Noob,” which is his way of saying, “I love you.”
- Christmas lights that are appearing in my neighborhood
- A Mercury’s Coffee shop opening right down the hill from my house
- Planning a Thanksgiving celebration that is NOT over Zoom
- A tree full of birds squabbling over the last crab apples
- A new pair of walking shoes with hot pink laces
Now, I know this is not an impressive list, but there is a story behind each of these things I named—a story that has meaning to me and automatically expands my gratitude list. When I take a moment to notice each of these things and call them by name, it keeps me in the present moment where I find comfort and peace.
Here is another powerful gratitude practice by Tanmeet Sethi, an Integrative Medicine doctor at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital. This one is a game-changer, my friends. I hope you try it. 🙂
Practicing Gratitude for Someone
Think of someone you are truly grateful for—a friend, mentor, partner, whomever (I love doing it with a child). Close your eyes, think about them and WHY you are grateful for them. Notice what it feels like in your body.
That feeling is your nervous system settling down. That’s your relaxation system kicking in. But wait, there’s more happening here! The primary nerve of your relaxation system—the vagus nerve—gives us the urge to connect deeper with ourselves and others. The more you do this, and the longer you stay in this state, the more connected you will feel to the world around you.
When we can get grounded in healthy, comforting relationships, we feel safer in this world. We feel more a part of it instead of walking through it. When we express gratitude for another human being, we see that we are part of a larger whole. And if we write a thank-you note to that person (herein lies the extra power of this exercise), we amplify it even more.
Studies show that people who write thank you notes 3 times a week for three weeks felt better in mood than those who wrote in their journal or those in therapy. Plus, they still felt better 3 months after this study was over!
It sounds too simple, I know. But trust me, it’s big.
Here’s how it works…
1. Think of someone you are grateful for, past or present.
2. Write them a note about why you are grateful for them. Include specific details.
3. You could stop right here and feel all the good feels, but you get bonus points if you either mail it to them or deliver it in person and read it to them.
4. Tell them you have something special to give them and watch the magic unfold.
When we express and relay gratitude to others, we feel better in all kinds of ways.
1. Your nervous system will get the signal that you feel safe and connected.
2. Your heart will get the signal that you and this other person mattered in the web of your life.
3. Your body will relax knowing that you are cared for by another.
What do you think? Are you willing to give these exercises a try? If you do, please let me know how it goes!
Sending gratitude your way,
Kristin Jarvis Adams is a public speaker and advocate for children with special needs, helping to bridge the gap between the outside world and the inner world of autism. Her speaking engagements have included: Seattle Festival of Trees Gala, a benefit for Seattle Children’s Hospital and The Seattle Children’s Autism Clinic. Learn More>>