Sometimes, less is more. But not with gratitude. With gratitude, I believe that more is more. Maybe that’s why, in episode 2 of the Create Happy podcast, my co host Shawn and I chose to share not 3, not 10, but 100 things we each are grateful for. (If that doesn’t qualify as “Grateful AF,” I don’t know what does!) Take a listen by clicking play below. (And don’t worry, we stick to our half hour time limit.)
So why did we want to talk about just how “grateful AF” we are? Sure, it has a little to do with the fact that this podcast episode was released in November. But we chose this topic—for our second podcast ever, mind you—because there is a close, often-unexplored connection between gratitude, creativity, and happiness.
Products of gratitude
In fact, there are a few products of gratitude that we don’t think about all that often. We discuss these all in the episode, so I’ll just touch on them briefly here.
Gratitude essentially puts a magnifying glass on everything that is beneficial, uplifting, inspiring, or otherwise “good” in your life. When you practice gratitude, you focus on the positive. In fact, you’re likely to see some positive things that you’ve never seen before.
That last point—seeing things you’ve never seen before—brings us to awareness. Gratitude makes you more aware of everything around you. As you’ll hear in the episode, deliberately thinking of things we are grateful for made us think of more obscure things like gravity, dirt, oxygen, and more.
And here’s the kicker: the more you are looking for things you’re grateful for, the more you’ll find things you’re grateful for. The more you’ll become aware that there is so much to be thankful for, if you just open your eyes to see it.
The things and people that are around you—your family, the food in your fridge, the floor under your feet—are there to support you (quite literally, in the case of the floor). Everything around you makes it possible for you to live a happy life. When you realize that, you recognize that you have power. You have what you need to succeed.
The three things we’ve just discussed—positivity, awareness, and power—open the door to creativity. When you have a positive outlook, are aware of the world around you, and recognize your power, you are more likely to create. You are more likely to recognize the good that is in the world and the good that you could bring into the world. And as you practice creativity, you’re going to experience more happiness.
Happiness is the ultimate result of gratitude. It’s hard to be sad when you are seeing, recognizing, and thinking about what is right with your world. That’s why gratitude is one of the best ways to get your mind right, and to get yourself to a happier state.
Tips for starting a gratitude practice
Now that you know why gratitude is so valuable, how can you start a gratitude practice of your own so you can become “grateful AF” and start enjoying the benefits gratitude has to offer? Here are some tips to help you make gratitude a part of your daily life.
Commit to gratitude.
Any time you try to form a new habit, commitment is an important first step. This is definitely true with a gratitude practice. In fact, I’ve noticed that many people talk themselves out of starting a gratitude practice, for any number of reasons. I know I did.
As I discuss on the podcast, before I started making my list of 100 things I’m grateful for (which I knew I was going to share with a bunch of strangers, by the way), I was pretty self-conscious about it. Will it work? Will I sound stupid? Is my list dumb? Do I really have to say that I’m grateful for these things? Don’t people already know?
Of course, now that I’m on the other side of it—list made and shared—I’m so glad I did it. It opened my eyes to just how much there is to be grateful for in the world. And it reminded me that everything is worth celebrating.
So if you start to second guess the idea, remind yourself that it’s worth it.
Try it first thing in the morning.
Many of us start our days reading the news, or checking social media. The problem with that is that those things tend to remind us of what is missing in our lives or in the world. Social media, in particular, invites comparison and reminds us of what we don’t have, leading to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. In this way, starting your day with those things sets you back from the very beginning.
There’s a reason religious people start their day with prayer (a large part of which is expressing gratitude). It makes them feel peace. It makes them recognize the good things in the world, and reminds them of the things they have and love.
So when you’re trying to start a gratitude practice of your own, I would encourage you to try expressing gratitude first thing in the morning. It will get your day off to a great start.
(The Design.org Plus worksheet that correlates with this topic also encourages gratitude practice right when you wake up. Learn more about Plus and these worksheets here.)
Start small…or go big.
The gratitude worksheet encourages you to write down three things you’re grateful for every morning. That’s a fantastic place to start. It takes 30 seconds and helps you start the day strong.
However, I also found a lot of benefit in making this list of 100 things I’m grateful for. It took me longer than 30 seconds (probably closer to 20 minutes), but the sheer volume of positivity was overwhelming, in a good way.
All that to say—do what works for you. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of making a huge master list right at the beginning, then start with three things a day. If you like the idea of getting a jumpstart (and getting all the more “obvious” things out of the way), start with a longer list first. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. (Check out this post on starting a gratitude journal for more tips.)
Notice things throughout the day
Children are naturally “grateful AF.” As kids, we see everything around us as things to be grateful for. Shawn tells the story of his daughter listing things she was grateful for and mentioning things like the walls. When was the last time you ever even noticed the walls around you?
Life moves at an incredibly fast speed. We’ve learned to get things done quickly. Usually that’s a good thing, but when do we ever just sit back, breathe, and think “I’m just glad I’m here”?
This will take some practice. You’ll have to learn to look up from your phone, take in the sights and sounds and smells around you, and see the good in the world. It might feel unnatural at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will get.
As you practice gratitude, you’ll feel more gratitude. In fact, you’ll become grateful AF. And feeling more gratitude is going to bring you more creativity and more happiness. And that, friends, is the ultimate goal.
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