Tuesday Tales: A hack when it comes to gratitude – Donna Thistlethwaite

For the past four years, I have had a thriving gratitude practice and it’s truly been life-enhancing.

Gratitude has been shown in studies to lead to increased happiness and less depression. I personally think it is one of the best bangs for your buck when it comes to investing in your resilience. It’s generally free, is self-administered, and doesn’t take up a lot of time amidst a full life.

You can practice gratitude in many ways – a gratitude journal; a jar that you fill with daily gratitude notes; sending thank you cards or notes, or scheduling calls, to people you’re grateful to; meditation; a gratitude board, and more. The important thing when it comes to gratitude is that it’s a practice. Author and leadership expert, Brene Brown, found in her research that an attitude of gratitude alone doesn’t produce the wellbeing benefits that the practice does.

The practice that I have consists of myself and four other people texting three gratitudes to each other every day. What I love about this practice is that there’s accountability (they’re expecting to receive my gratitudes); I’ll often get a reminder when their’s start to arrive; and then there’s the fact that you get to vicariously live their joy as well, something that I honestly had not anticipated when I set up the group after hearing Pam Grout speak of it all those years ago.

I’ve been sharing this practice on stages, podcasts and in my writing for years now but recently I had an insight that I need to share with anyone thinking about gratitude practice.

Often I track my gratitudes as they occur during the day, eg. Someone smiles at me at the checkout queue, a friend calls me, my family and I have fun playing tag in our pool, I have a positive discussion with a prospective client etc, etc. When these events occur I’ll often record them in the Notes app on my phone soon after so I’m conscious of them and I don’t let these experiences slip away.

What I’ve realised is that capturing them as they occur dramatically improves the effects that flow from the practice. At night when I go back through the Notes and transfer them to my group text, I reconnect with those experiences. It is as though I’m savouring the moments (again). I can feel the emotions of the positive experiences rising up in my body.

On other nights when I haven’t progressively captured my gratitudes, I’ve noticed that I can slip into “task focus”. Anyone else a champion list-crosser-offerer? What I’ve realised is that when I’m in my task-focused mode I am in my conscious mind. I’m analysing the day trying to pull out those moments and interestingly I often miss some of the best ones from this place, eg. Like the neighbour phoning to say she’d contribute to a new fence that will take us a step closer to getting that rescue greyhound we’ve been envisaging for a while. Not to mention that it’s the emotion that seems to elevate my mood and help me to connect with the goodness of my life.

While it’s not always as easy to capture the gratitudes as they occur, now that I can appreciate the benefits, I’m committed to building this into my practice more. If I haven’t managed to capture them during the day, my new approach will be to scan the day focusing on emotions rather than activities and to avoid list checking!

Do you have a gratitude practice? Does it allow you to savour the goodness in your life? I’d love to hear about your experiences via one of my social media channels – Facebook, LinkedIn.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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