Why Practicing Gratitude is Self Care

Why Practicing Gratitude is Self Care

Being grateful isn’t always easy. Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. And for some of us, gratitude just isn’t an organic part of who we are.

But gratitude can be life changing.

Gratitude Changes Perspective

When I was in college, I had a professor start each class by adding to our collective gratitude journal. My classmates and I would voluntarily share specifics about why we were grateful that day. As the semester progressed, it became easier for many of us to recognize the beauty in our lives, regardless of the situations in which we found ourselves.

What at first felt forced then seemed natural.

What could’ve been a miserable, stormy day was much more easily a day comprised of worthwhile celebration…and a few unfortunate situations.

And when disaster strikes? Anger, confusion, frustration, etc. are all so valid and so important to be allowed to be felt.

To practice gratitude is to proactively choose to find the good and be thankful. To remember that not all is horrid and that you have been gifted good things.

It is to choose to remain optimistic and to push forward, even when everything else is failing.

Gratitude is a practice, which means we will sometimes miss opportunities to be grateful. But that’s okay. Learn. Forgive. And move on. Because there will be many, many more chances to practice gratitude.

“Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for.” Henri Nouwen

Gratitude is Comforting

Just think about it.

When I was in that college class, my university was going through some pretty difficult transitions. Really, a major aspect of the university’s identity was under question.

This made it a difficult semester for students, faculty, and staff.

But the gratitude journal my class was forming was a way of expressing the good in an uncomfortable situation. Students still had each other…and staff. There were opportunities for advocacy. There were opportunities for growth.

Amidst a semester full of negative comments, poor communication, and questionable decisions, there was still a lifetime of gratitude to be had.

And to realize that was immensely comforting.

This never negated the fact that there were growing pains and wounds that needed healed. Our practice of gratitude was merely a way of remembering, and being humbled by, the good.

To understand that, while everything crumbles, there is still good and that there will continue to be good, is so wonderfully comforting.

Make it a Habit

But how does gratitude become such an amazing tool for self care? Practice gratitude. Daily. Practice being grateful when you wake up, during the day, and when you are headed to sleep for the night. The more you practice gratitude, the more easy it becomes.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Write it down! A really easy way is to start a gratitude journal. You could begin by writing just one thing you are grateful for each day. Incorporate it into your routine, such as when you are eating breakfast or just before you leave for the day, so its easy to remember to do! Also, you’ll be able to look back on everything you’ve been grateful for…and that can be incredibly powerful.
  2. Act on it! When someone does something that benefits you (or others), show them that you are thankful for that. Practice gratitude in your verbal words and in your actions. Let others know that you are thankful. And when you do that, you’re also proactively sending yourself a message that you are grateful.

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…gratefully.” Maya Angelou

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