When you’re making a gratitude list, it can be easy to write down the same kinds of things over and over again. We have a tendency to revert to things we’re grateful for in general, like our families or our neighbourhoods. These things are great, but if our gratitude lists feel automatic and vague, they’re not going to bring us the same boost of energy and happiness.
Instead, he suggests writing down only things that you experienced within the last 24 hours. When you think back over the past day or so and think about all the small things you were grateful for, suddenly your brain lights up and starts actively looking for more things! Writing down “house, family, having good food to eat” are fairly rote, our brains barely have to actively think about them. But thinking through the past 24 hours means we have to engage, which makes the gratitude practice more effective.
Along the same lines, his second tip is to create more active processing by including the reason that we were grateful for each item. Instead of just saying “I’m grateful that I got to go swimming at the national park,” you’d add “…because it made me feel alive, like I was exploring new places and having new experiences.” Suddenly, you’re reconnecting to some of your core values and tying your daily life to your deeper goals. Suddenly, life feels more meaningful.
So far I’ve only tried tip #1, but it’s already made a huge difference. As someone who can relate to gratitude practices starting to feel boring and routine, I think that doing both of these will help me to feel more connected to and appreciating of my life.
And while we’re here: I’m grateful to you for reading this post, because it makes me feel connected to others who might feel the same way as me. What are you grateful for and why?