At all times, especially times of misfortune, it is essential to practice gratitude. Gratitude is the state of being appreciative of your current situation; embracing the good and the bad. When you are grateful, you practice kindness and generosity. Most importantly, you are thankful for all aspects of your life and manage to attain order in times of chaos.
It is easy to get caught up in the stress, and anxiety life may bring you. We lose sight of all the good going on in our world because we are too focused on what’s going wrong.
This habit of thinking can cause a severe strain on your mental, emotional, and physical well being. How do we pull ourselves out of this cycle of negative thinking? Simple. Make it a point to practice gratitude each day.
Here are five simple steps to get your journey started
1. Establish a morning routine
A morning routine sets the stage for the rest of your day. The best way to start your day off on a positive note is to establish a good night routine (see step 5 for more details). Taking the initiative and setting out your clothes, lunch, and any additional items needed for the day eliminates any added stress or need to rush frantically out the door each morning.
Have you ever noticed how on somedays its incredibly hard to wake up fully? Often we hear people talk about needing their morning coffee before they are at “optimum functionality.” This phenomenon behind the tedious period of waking up is called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the transition state between sleep and wakefulness. When you wake up abruptly, you interfere with your natural sleep cycle. Some adverse effects include drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and an overall decrease in cognition. The immediate effects of sleep inertia can resolve as quickly as 15-30 minutes. However, in some cases, it takes people up to two hours to fully resolve. Waking up earlier allows your body to wake up naturally. Studies have shown early risers, as well as those with a consistent sleep schedule on work and free days, are more productive and proactive throughout the day.
Everyone’s morning routine may look a little different. But here are a couple of things I incorporate in my routine, that may work for you.
When I wake up in the morning I …
take some time to read (Bible, novel, magazine, etc.)
Make my bed (this is the only way I manage not to fall back to sleep)
Get a quick morning workout in (Go on a run, go to the gym &/or do yoga)
Brew a fresh cup of coffee or tea
Play some music
Shower, wash my face, and get dressed for the day.
Make a healthy breakfast
Finish packing up the items I need for the day
Create a list of things I plan to accomplish in my day
And I am on my way!
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive influences may be the 2nd most important way to practice gratitude, with engaging in a productive morning routine as the first. There is some truth behind the common saying, ” you are who you surround yourself with.” Who we interact with daily plays a significant role in our mood, attitude, and perspectives. Often we tend to feed off those around us. Your positive outlook on life can only go so far when you are continuously fed negativity from those in your closest circle. Some of our dearest friends, and even family members, often are the ones holding us back. Eliminating negative, draining relationships is difficult but necessary if you want to live a positive life.
A common rule I practice is to be mindful of what I am giving energy too. Giving power to negative thoughts has a way of becoming apart of you. With time it can become difficult to detect that you’re engaging in negative talk and or behavior altogether . Having friends and family that hold you accountable is crucial to get us out of these tendencies. It’s essential to take back your power, from people, thoughts, vices, etc. And channel your energy into bettering yourself and working towards your goals. Mastering this type of self-discipline allows you to enter new spaces and influence the energy in the room instead of conforming to it.
3. Spend time in nature
When we are under stress or anxious, our bodies release cortisol. Cortisol activates our fight-or-flight response. Although essential in a threatening situation, chronically high cortisol levels cause more harm than good. Some long term effects of high cortisol levels include changes in energy level, weight gain, high blood pressure, irregular sleep patterns, and mood disruptions. Studies have found that spending twenty minutes outside each day can help lower cortisol levels.
Spending time outdoors may amount to a leisurely walk, running, and or going on a hike. Connecting with nature allows you to rest, reset, and take a break from the chaos of your daily life. Pauses help us reground and check-in with ourselves; this will enable us to let go of any issues we are battling and become more present.
When we are present, we learn to appreciate the small things. Too often do we take things for granted, such as a beautiful sunny day, a roof over your head, running water, and food to eat. When you practice gratitude, you no longer have to search high and low for happiness. Happiness can often be found right in front of you if pay close attention.
4. Keep a gratitude journal
Yes, we all have inevitable bad days. Keeping a gratitude journal handy can help ease the adverse effects of these bad days and level up your happiness.
A gratitude journal helps reduce feelings of frustration, anger, and resentment. Instead of letting such emotions consume us, we can take out our journal and write it down. Doing this gives us some peace of mind, freeing us from the situation. It can be hard to understand our feelings in a heated position fully. Writing things down brings clarity and alleviates any frustration that may lead us to react irrationally.
Another benefit of having a gratitude journal is the ability to reflect on your experiences. Doing this increases resiliency and builds mental wellbeing. When we see how far we’ve come, the journey ahead no longer seems all that intimidating. The goal is to create a constant state of contentment. A gratitude journal is a way to keep you self-accountable and headed in the right direction.
Unsure how to start a gratitude journal? Check out these printable gratitude journal inserts by ShineSheets to get you started.
5. Establish a night routine
A positive and productive night routine begins with disconnecting from all electronics. Don’t get wrapped up in mindless scrolling on social media or try sending one last email, despite being clocked out of work for several hours. To stay detached from electronics, set up a charging station outside of your bedroom. Also, try turning off all electronics 30 minutes before bed and work up from there.
Take some time to declutter and set your items out for the following day. Doing this frees up time in your morning.
Decompress by stretching, meditating, or doing yoga to help relax and get mentally and physically ready for bed.
Establish a good skincare routine. Self-care is essential, and your method can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like.
For my skincare routine, I tend to keep things simple and include all-natural products.
Step 1. Usually, I start with Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil. On days when I wear make-up, I find this especially helps with removing everything quick and efficiently.
Step 3. Following this, I use either 100% natural Witch Hazel or Apple Cider Vinegar as a toner.
** My routine is fairly consistent, plus or minus some face masks, occasional exfoliating, and added serums depending on the condition of my skin.
Lastly, take some time to journal and reflect on your day. Set an intention for the day to come, and most importantly, get to bed at a reasonable time!
To start your gratitude journey, come up with three gratitude affirmations.
Here’s one to start: ” I am so happy and grateful for the life I have.”