4 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
November has somehow become the Middle Child of the final months of the year. October is the cute baby of the family, the one that keeps getting bigger and better as Halloween celebrations get more elaborate with each passing year. December is the wise, established oldest with it’s generational holiday traditions. November? November just sits quietly in the middle, unassuming and unsung.
Always the champion for the underdog, I’m quite fond of November. Some might say protective, if one can feel protective over a month. I keep December celebrating at bay until after Thanksgiving. I have a whole mantel of family pumpkin patch photos that comes out the day after Halloween and stays up until the day after Thanksgiving. I love a month that centers on being thankful and spending time with those I cherish. I love a month that celebrates gathering around a full table, enjoying a full plate and finally enjoying a full belly surrounded by chatter and laughter. I love a month that isn’t commercialized and asks me to buy little else than celebratory food.
With Thanksgiving as it’s pinnacle, November is a month that exalts gratitude. The funny thing about gratitude is that the more you start to give thanks, the more you are able to appreciate. It is like pulling a string on a sweater. Start with that one little tug, finding that one thing to be grateful for, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by a cozy yarn pile of gratitude for the many wonderful things in your life.
How can we cultivate gratitude in our lives after the Thanksgiving meal is put away? Here are 4 ways to keep a thankful spirit and attitude in our daily lives year-round.
Keep a gratitude journal. Simply think of 1-2 things you are grateful for each day and write them down. It can be profound things (i.e. life, freedom, hope) or wonderfully mundane things (i.e. Netflix, good coffee, clean clothes). Set a goal to write down one thing each day for a month. Leave your gratitude journal in a central spot so you’ll see it each day. Even if you’re a smart phone addict, I highly recommend keeping a paper and pen gratitude journal. Studies continue to show that the act of writing down thoughts is more impactful and cathartic than typing.
Share thanks out loud. Paraphrasing the wise Buddy from Elf (yes, I know it’s a Christmas movie and this is a November post, but his words are worth pondering year-round),” the best way to spread cheer is to shout it loud for all to hear.” The beauty in voicing your gratitude is that you just might share it with someone who very much needs a reminder of their worth or their blessings. Be generous in thanking those who cross your daily path.
Embrace silence. The chatter and buzz of our daily lives, the cascade of people, demanding jobs and incessant technology, can leave us over stimulated and numb. Turn it off. Actively seek out silence. Find time in the early morning or late in the evening and deliberately turn off your devices. As Rumi so eloquently says, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” Give yourself time in silence to give quiet thanks.
Get Outside. Nature begs to be celebrated. Make a point to spend time in beautiful spaces. For some it’s the being on the water, others find their peace surrounded by trees. Even in the midst of a busy week, take time to walk outside and feel the sun. Especially in the fall and winter when daylight is short and it can be easy to leave the house in the dark and return in the dark, make a point to get outside during the daylight hours. Allowing the sun to warm your face, the breeze to cool your skin or the cold air to perk you up is a needed embrace from Mother Nature.
We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude this month and beyond. Take a few moments today to focus on all that you have. Learning to be grateful is a simple yet powerful way to improve your entire life.