8 Gratitude Practices to Improve Your Sleep, Smarts, and Sanity

Two old friends met each other on the street one day.  One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears.  His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”

The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you:  three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money.”

“But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.”

“Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.”

“You don’t understand!” he interrupted.  “Last week my great-aunt passed away.  I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.”

Now the man’s friend was really confused.  “Then, why do you look so glum?”

“This week . . . nothing!

(Thanks to Cary Schmidt)

8 gratitude practices

Move to the Gratitude Latitude

It’s easy for us to see how the friend has lost his ability to see the positives that have come his way.  And like that friend, when we focus on what we don’t have we can lose sight of the many things we do have.

When that happens we miss out on some key benefits that an attitude of gratitude can provide.

There are over 40 research studies that show that a sense of gratitude increases our happiness, makes us more likable, helps us stay healthy, enhances our personal relationships, and can even improve our sleep quality.

Life just gets better when we have an appreciative outlook.

If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. Click To Tweet

With that in mind, here are eight gratitude practices we can start doing today that will make life better for us and those around us.

8 Gratitude Practices You Can Start Today

1. Instead of counting sheep at bedtime, count blessings.  Michael Rogers at Teamwork Leadership suggests that one way to cure insomnia is instead of thinking about what you didn’t get done or what went wrong, think about how grateful you are for what you have and what went right.  You’ll sleep better and wake up happier, too.

2. Keep a journal.  Writing down what you are thankful for can have a powerful effect on your well-being. In a recent study, two groups each made weekly journal entries.  One focused on what they were grateful about, the second focused on hassles and irritants.

After nine weeks the grateful group reported exercising more each week, and experienced a sense of increased optimism about life.

I agree with Rebecca Temsen at SelfDevelopmentSecrets.com who observes that part of the reason this works is that memory improves with writing; when we remember and focus on the good stuff, our outlook improves.

3. Be specific. But it’s more than just, “Thanks for this, thanks for that…”  Marie Forleo mentions a 10-week University of Southern California study.  One group wrote every day about five different things they were grateful for.  A second group focused on only one thing, but wrote five sentences about why it made them grateful.

At the end of the study, the second group reported being more excited and alert, and less sad, and lethargic than the other group.

So pick just a few things and go deep with your appreciation.

Don't just say Thanks. Be specific about what was good. Click To Tweet

4. Write one “thank you” a day.  After experiencing a host of setbacks, John Kralik knew he needed to refocus on gratitude to get his sense of balance back.  To make that happen, he decided that he would write one thank you note every day for a year.

Years have passed now, and thousands of notes later, he is still enjoying the benefits of the positive focus he finds this discipline brings.

5. Consider “negative grace.”  If you are having trouble coming up with things to be grateful for, consider all the bad things that could occur.  Be glad you don’t have those things to deal with.

Is there a roof over your head that’s keeping you warm and dry?  That’s a good start.

Got running hot and cold water?  Pretty nice that you didn’t have to hike to the river to get some.

Is it drinkable?  Bonus for not having to filter it.

We often overlook the most basic things.  Consider where we’d be without them.

Related:  Why You Don’t Need New Shoes
Related:  Appalachian Trail Leadership Lessons

6. Share the positives.  At a youth retreat I was at one weekend the staff covered the walls of a room with manila envelopes.  Each had the name of one of the students.

Over the course of the weekend, everyone was encouraged to write something positive about someone else and put it in their envelope.  By the Sunday, the envelopes were stuffed with supportive and encouraging notes they got to take home with them.

What a great way to spread the gratitude around.

Maybe try a variation of this idea – Dr. Christine Carter suggests starting a tradition of writing “appreciations” at family dinners or holidays.  Set out place cards before dinner and give everyone the opportunity to write a few words describing what they appreciate about each other.

During the meal you can even go around the table and share.

7. Don’t wait for Thanksgiving.  In fact, you don’t even have to wait for dinner.  Any time you are out driving to work, walking the dog, traveling or hanging out with friends and family – those are all good times to focus on the goodness of what you have.

Thinking about what is good, and even saying them out loud will help you stay focused on what is going right.

Related:  Walking With Equanimity

8. Reach out to someone.  Even as we come to realize how much we really have, there are many who are making do with less.  A word from you could help brighten their day.

One group is our US military service men and women.  As long as we are being grateful, consider reaching out to them to say thanks.

It doesn’t take much effort to be grateful,  and gratitude practices like these are simple and cost nothing.  Yet the benefits for you and everyone around you can be huge.  Start today and share the love.

     One day a woman awoke to find out that she only had three strands of hair remaining on her head.  “OK” she thought,  “I guess I’ll braid my hair today.”

The next day she woke up to find she had only two strands of hair on her head.  “That’s fine” she said to herself.  “Today I’ll part my hair down the middle.”

The following morning she discovered that she only had a single hair remaining on her head.  “Looks like a good day for a pony tail” she thought.

On the fourth day, she awoke to discover that she had no hair at all – she was completely bald.  “Good,” she said.  “Now I don’t have to waste all that time fixing my hair.”

Be grateful for what you have, and

Lead On!

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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