Daily gratitude practice, updated.

The recommendation to make a daily gratitude list has become so common that your brain might be shutting down right now.  Yeah, yeah, you grumble.  The research is clear that sitting down each evening to list blessings in your life can increase happiness and well-being. And everyone older than three or younger than ninety knows it. “Lay off us, we’ve heard it before,” you may be thinking.

I struggle with it too. I know reciting my gratefulness can enrich my life, tempering the days I spend listening to woes galore. But do I do it? I’m just a lowly human being, and maybe this struggle is another way psychologists are just like you! When I’ve tried, I quickly get into a “CD on repeat”-type litany, writing about the same loved ones, health, strength, and security day after day. Starts to sound like blah, blah, blah in my head, and I doubt how that low level rumble can even make a dent in my psyche.

Doing my duty as a psychologist, making an effort to improve my skills, I was listening to an online seminar in my car. Selfishly, often: I want to improve my bag of tricks for clients and blog audience, but I also like to make my life easier. The name-escapes-me-today (see, I forget, just like you) speaker said that, in an effort to fulfill his own gratitude practice, he tries to find a new experience or moment to savor each day. This motivates him to move through his day mindfully, given that mindfulness also enhances our perception of living a good life. Throughout the day, he checks in routinely, keeping part of his brain attuned to new experiences or moments to appreciate.

I liked this. In even the worst days, there is at least one thing that lights me up, makes me smile. A kindness, a compliment, a hug. Often, there is one small item that makes me smile–or laugh out loud. I often text these ‘finds’ to my daughters, as a fun way to keep in touch.  I think I could do this. I set out to add this to my practice of bits of life to notice.

Meanwhile, the other challenge in my head lately is exactly how to jump into Twitter. The promise is that Twitter could increase my exposure, help me share my expertise, build my business. Since I announced my intention to do so, it’s been like learning to drive a car with a clutch.  Shift, stall, grind the gears. NOT quite as bad as sitting in the ’67 VW at the top of a hill with my dad alternately cajoling and yelling at me. But a struggle, to figure out what might shine even a tiny bit in the vast Twitter universe, making my comments worth a follow.

Grind, grind, go the gears in my head, chewing up gratitude ideas with tweets. The result that spewed out is my new daily gratitude practice. Each day*, my goal is to notice and tweet one event that made me smile. Since it appears that a clothing company already has a campaign linked to the hashtag #dailysmile, I’ll be using #dailysmiles.

Join me, won’t you? Follow and retweet–or let me inspire you to notice and tweet your own daily smile.


*(hey, I’m warning you, I’m only human.)

On gratitude and great weather

We hear much about expressing gratitude these days. Everyone from Oprah to Deepak Chopra to research psychologists asserts that taking time to acknowledge, to yourself and to others, the many assets in your life significantly enriches your life. Taking in the good, and thanking others, simply makes us happier, individually and in relationships.

This is always in the back of my mind, and while I may recommend that clients keep a gratitude journal, I simply never have started one myself. Over the last few days, however, there is something about our incredibly fabulous weather here in Dallas that makes me simply brim with appreciation for my life. Maybe there’s some research out there that says cool, windows-open sleeping weather and perfect, sunny days in the low 70s, all against a backdrop of incredibly blue skies and green, lush, blooming trees and grass, contributes to emotional well-being. My personal research project this week, when I’ve spent every available moment either on my back porch, gardening, or parked on a cafe patio, has led to the conclusion that relishing these perfect conditions definitely improves my life satisfaction.

Research states that gratitude works best when it’s a mindset, not a blip on the screen of your life. And this lovely weather and verdant surroundings are a good foundation for my gratitude mindset.

Before it heats up for summer, grab a notebook, get outside for a few minutes, and list what you are grateful for in your life. I’m thankful for my incredible back yard, friends and loved ones to share it, and this great weather, while it lasts. Every day below 80 degrees feels like a gift. What’s on your gratitude list?

Ann’s backyard