Getting started with gratitude — a 30-day challenge for the new year
I plugged it in and for some reason I couldn't connect my phone to it. I googled it. I found out I needed to update the software. It took almost an hour to figure out the issue. When I updated the software, it worked!
I played “Stray Cat Blues” by The Rolling Stones. It sounded pretty good, but as the song played I felt a pang of regret. I had an older speaker that didn’t sound quite as good…but it was good enough. I didn’t really need the new speaker.
I’ve seen this habit surface again and again. I’ve gotten better, but it’s a daily struggle: Why can’t I be happy with what I have?
A few years ago, I put myself on a mission to be more grateful for the small things in life. It’s done wonders for my mindset. As I continue to grow and improve my practice, I'm more aware of my internal dialog:
- I “need” a new speaker.
- I “need” a new bike.
- I “need” a new jacket.
The reality is none of these are needs. My old speaker was fine. My old bike is okay. My old jacket can be cleaned.
As I listen to my internal dialog, I’ve noticed my desire to want more things and newer things. The awareness helps. This is not who I want to become. Besides, it costs me too much money.
I’m working on appreciating what I already have instead of wanting to buy something to replace it.
That’s why gratitude is so important. Gratitude helps us shift our mindset to enjoying what we have instead of wanting more. Do you ever struggle with the desire to get that new gadget or another pair of shoes?
Those are two of my main vices that I turn to when I’m feeling down. It’s why I wanted the new speaker. I wanted that feeling of having something new. I thought it would make me feel better.
I’m not perfect, but I’ve learned a lot over the past few years. I keep a daily gratitude journal and it’s done wonders for helping me appreciate what I have instead of focusing on buying that next thing on my list.
The Gratitude Journal
I’m always surprised that it took me so long to keep a gratitude journal. Perhaps the most powerful mindset tool that we have is gratitude!
I’m really big into self-help books and learning new things, but I always consumed instead of taking action. I think it’s this attitude that also encouraged me to collect new gadgets instead of appreciating what I had or knowing that I didn’t really need to buy anything new.
In one book, Why We Do What We Do, researcher Edward Deci explains that when someone has six positive interactions to one negative, they are 31% more productive.
When you have positive thoughts and interactions, it’s easier to focus on what matters. That may be spending time with your family, traveling, or writing. Positive interactions free you up to have the energy to do what matters to you.
One terrific way to foster positive thoughts and interactions is to deliberately and consciously bring gratitude into your daily life. For me, keeping a gratitude journal serves this purpose.
I believe everything starts with our internal dialog. If we let our negative inner voice dictate our happiness, then we’ll constantly feel like we’re not enough. That we don’t have enough.
Next time you are stuck in a difficult situation, watch how you talk to yourself.
Do you ask yourself things like:
- “Can this person be more boring?”
- “Why is this taking so long?”
- “What do I have to do to get noticed?”
Try switching this inner dialog on its head. Try tapping into your curiosity to see if you can ask questions that help you see the interesting parts of the situation.
- “What am I learning in this situation?”
- “How did I get so lucky to be in this warm environment?”
- “What do I notice about this situation that is interesting?”
Great questions help you focus your attention. They enable you to fuse gratitude onto your attitude. Exploring questions like these in your a gratitude journal can help you discover your mindset and motivations.
If you're like me and sometimes get jealous of what other people have, this envy can be a great place to start appreciating what you currently have. As you become better at appreciating what you have, move on to appreciating the people and situations in your life.
Explore these emotions in your gratitude journal. You can start by making gratitude entries about what you appreciate. You could start with looking around your home and being grateful for the kitchen table or your shoes that fit comfortably.
You’ll probably notice what entries energize you, and then you can continue down this path for a few days.
For seven days, try writing what you're grateful for and why. Start small, and if it feels good then keeping going. I suggest something like this:
- “I’m grateful for my shoes because they are so comfortable.”
- “I’m lucky to have a phone that can call my mom, brother, friend, etc.”
- “I’m grateful for my coworker because she is always willing to listen and help.”
- “I’m grateful for my ability to dance in my car seat when I’m stuck at a traffic light because it allows me to release my stress.”
- “I’m grateful for my pets because they make me feel loved and needed.”
The key component here is your why. It’s important because it helps deepen the gratitude journal experience. Within just a few days you’ll probably notice an improvement in your attitude.
If you're interested, you can join the free 30 Day Bring Gratitude Challenge (running January 1st thru 30th) to help you strengthen your mindset. Come join us and you’ll get email updates and a private Facebook group. If you have any questions, I (Karl Staib) am available seven days a week.