5 Gratitude Practices in 5 Mins
Updated: Aug 30
Gratitude is the single most powerful practice I have found. But profound can also be simple - often simple practices are the most profound. Here are five ways I incorporate gratitude practice into my daily life. Anyone can use these - you don't need training, equipment, a teacher...just your own mind space and heart space.
Five Year Journal
Three years ago I received, as a Christmas gift, a five-year journal. Maybe you've seen these? Each page has one date at the top and is divided into five small paragraphs of blank lines preceded by a place to write the year. My journal is small - maybe 5x7 inches. So, each paragraph provides just enough space to write one or two sentences. I chose to make this my Gratitude Journal. Each night, I write a short blurb, some times just one or two words, that express something I have been grateful for that day. Sometimes these are very small and some times they are ginormous. Some things that I have recorded in the last few years are:
A beautiful sunset out my kitchen window tonight.
My new baby is healthy and whole.
Date night with Martin! Yahoo!
Grateful today is over and I can start fresh tomorrow.
Make a List
At one time, I sat down and wrote the frist name of every person for whom I felt grateful at that moment. It took a while - so long, in fact, that I had to abandon the task because my hand was cramping and I had other things I needed to do that day! (I hoped to finish the list another time, "but knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I would ever be back.") Even in its unfinished state, it was a powerful tool, the product of which I lost track of eventually, but the experience of which clung to my soul for a long time. Looking at that list, I saw how many people I loved, how many loved me, how many lives were tangential to my own, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. I chose to write down names of people because I created this little task for myself at a point when I was feeling exceptionally lonely. But the list could easily have been more broad or narrow:
Things I am Grateful For
Moments in my Life I am Grateful for
Places I am Grateful to Have Been
Events I am Grateful to Have Witnessed or Experienced
Things I am Grateful for in 2021 (an excellent December 31st activity to close the year with a thankful heart!)
If the idea of committing to a daily practice seems unrealistic, maybe this could be a monthly activity - Things I am Grateful for This Month.
An Existing Routine
This idea is based on an exercise from the mindfulness workbook, How to Train a Wild Elephant, which is a fabulous read full of wonderfully teachable moments, BTW. Rather than adding another practice into your day, how about incorporating gratitude to something you already do? Instead of talking, thinking about other things, checking your phone, etc., try focusing your mind on one thing for which you are thankful...
while brushing your teeth in the morning and evening.
while drinking your first cup of coffee, or waiting for your tea to brew.
for each item of clothing you put on in the morning.
for every red light you sit through on your way to work. (Would your coworkers thank you for showing up full of gratitude?!)
when you turn on or off a light. Let one thankful thought be the last thought it your mind when you turn out your light at night and hold on to it while you drift to sleep. What a wonderful way to end the day!
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. - Aesop
Tell a Friend
Accountability is key to forming a new habit, so try entering into a gratitude practice with someone else. For years, Martin and I had a routine of telling each other two things each night before bed: one thing we were grateful for and one thing we did well that day. Some days were obviously much harder than others, and some times it took effort to think of anything at all. But one nice thing about a Gratitude Buddy is that you can always say, "I'm grateful for you today," and it will be a wonderful thing to say and also to hear.
Is there someone you could recruit to be your Gratitude Buddy? Someone you could text, email, message, phone, or even talk to (like, old fashioned face-to-face conversation!) every day? There may be days when you don't want to share the details of your grateful thought, and that is perfectly fine! You can agree to set some boundaries or protocols for saying, "I have had my grateful thought today and I am keeping it to myself, but it is there in my mind."
Everyone, yes, even you, has five minutes you could spend in a gratitude meditation. It doesn't have to involve much set up or effort or experience in meditation practices. Simply...
Sit down. Find a chair, floor, couch, anywhere you can be comfortable and uninterrupted for just five minutes.
Close your eyes and listen to the sound of your own breathing. As you inhale, soften your belly so it gets bigger and rounder. As you exhale, soften your spine so that your shoulders relax and sitting takes less effort. Spend 3-5 breaths this way.
Allow a grateful thought to rise up. No need to go searching for it, rather open your mind to it. The way you might open the front door when you hear someone knocking on it and then look at the door to see who it is. Wait to feel the knock on your mind, then turn toward that thought and let yourself be surprised by what you feel grateful for.
Focus on that thought - if it is a person, visualize their face or say their name a few times to yourself. If it is a place, same. If it is a more abstract thought, just let it wash over you. Or maybe settle into the feeling of gratitude in your body - where in your body do you feel it? Is your belly warm, your face smiling, your heart melting...? Enjoy that sensation.
Say, "Thank you." Out loud or in your head. To the person or thing for whom you are grateful. To the universe or your higher power for providing you. To yourself for taking a moment of meditation.Or just to the space around you.
Done! Go on with your day and notice how your one thankful thought sticks with you, affects you, and ripples out from you.
What shape does your gratitude practice take?
I am happy to have found some practices that work for me because, when life gets so busy that my asana practice, my work out, my meditation, my sleep and my other grounding routines get interrupted, I can always, always take five minutes for gratitude and feel the effects ripple out into my day. If you have a gratitude practice that works for you, please share! Find us on social as TrainMovePlay everywhere or send us an email at TrainMovePlay@gmail.com.