Finding Gratitude and How to Build Your Own Gratitude Practice

woman sitting in chair reading

Gratitude. Have you found it? Do you feel silly talking about it? Think it’s a little too woo-woo for you? Maybe it’s right up there with manifesting your dream life. Maybe you’re skeptical about spending time on it.

Want to know the first thing that went through my mind?

Am I too old for this?

I know, I know, what a silly notion to have. As they say, you’re never too old for anything. You know you’re capable of changing your life, but you question whether you’re capable of making such dramatic mindset shifts.

I mean, how do you understand gratitude when you’ve been taught all your life not to focus on it?

Is it a thing? A feeling? A strong emotion? A connection to someone or something?

When I found gratitude, I had no idea how much of a positive impact it would have on my life. It wasn’t something that you suddenly started doing like switching from lattes to espressos. It’s a gradual progression.

It’s one small change repeated over time that changes your outlook on life and dissolves your notions about the importance (er, silliness) of stuff.

I honestly believe that we spend most of our twenties (and even 30s) so hyper-focused on some strange version of success that it clouds the simpler things in life. We’re striving, we’re pushing, we’re rushing, we’re running and we forget — to be grateful for every little thing.

Everyday busyness has us forgetting what would truly make us happy.

Moments of gratitude can be fleeting for most and usually inauthentic. We say, ‘Thanks’ for this or that little thing we’ve received from friends and family, then carelessly toss it aside and forget about it.

I remember the exact day when I tried out my gratitude chops — intentionally. I was 38. Yes, I was 38 years old when I had my first “I am grateful for…” moment.

I was at a low point in my career. I was dealing with the heavy stuff — the stress, the burnout, the massive projects that require five co-workers to help — that type of heavy stuff. Meltdown type of stuff. I reached a point where I could no longer see myself in my career – I had faded out of it. It was at that moment I realized that change was required. Massive change. But I knew that in order to make the changes I wanted, I needed an income. And although I loathed my job, I did the one thing I could to keep myself happy.

I told myself:

I am grateful for this job and the income it provides.

Why would anyone do that? You loathe your job, why would you say you’re grateful for it?

Because no matter how unhappy you are, gratitude lifts you back up. It changes your focus.

When I first truly experienced a feeling of gratitude I was overwhelmed by it. It came over me in one strong crashing wave. I cried. Then I felt happiness like I’d never felt it before. Joyful energy went through me and I felt as though I was soaring.

The second and third time – I cried again.

The second was a car repair. I had recently lost my corporate job and just started a part-time job earning minimum wage when a $5000 repair bill came in. I was faced with only two options, neither of which were appealing: go into debt to pay the $5000 bill or get rid of the car I desperately needed to get to my part-time job.

Upon seeing the cost, I told the service rep I couldn’t afford it.

He number crunched and as most car dealerships do, came back with a different number.
Each time, I gave him the same message whilst getting more and more distraught, “I can’t afford that either.” I was lucky to afford $500 at most. He told me he’d see what he could do and would call me in a day.

So I drove my broken car home, the check engine light glaring at me, waiting for a call telling me my car was junk.

Nerve-wracked, distressed, and in tears, I forced myself to stay positive. I refused to wallow in negativity. After all, it was a week before Christmas. So I did the only positive thing my brain knew: I prayed, practiced gratitude, and did my best to stay happy.

Two days later, I received the call I was dreading. I waited silently for the verdict, then the rep said, “I wanted to call you personally with the news. It’s good news. We went back to the manufacturer and they’ve agreed to pay for the full repair.”

I immediately began to cry while stammering out, “thank you” over and over again.

“Thank you so much, you don’t know how much this means to me. Thank you. Thank you.”

I was overwhelmed by gratitude. Is this what happens when you simplify life? When you’re stripped of a 16-year career, divorced for 5 years, and scraped right back down to your most vulnerable self?

After all, I was at bottom. There was nowhere else to go. A life I had spent 40 years building toppled down within a few years like a chain of dominoes — job gone, marriage gone, house sold, finances in shambles.

When I dropped my car off, I hugged the rep. This is a rarity for me. As an introvert, I’m not a huge hugger. But I hugged him and expressed my gratitude. My gut immediately told me, I need to do something for this wonderful man, a gift of some kind. But what? I was broke. So, I gave the only gift I could give — my gratitude, a very big hug and a bag of coffee I received from work.

I will never forget this moment. It is permanently etched into my life memories.

Gratitude was becoming a way of life and you begin to wonder how you’d lived without it for so long. Did you ignore it most of your life? Was your overly privileged life blinding you to the abundance that was right in front of you?

I wonder….

The third gratitude moment was for what some would call ‘small and insignificant’ — I earned my first affiliate sale from this very blog. I cried and sent a blessing to that person — that complete stranger. I looked to the heavens, crying and let out a tearful, “Thank you, God, thank you so much.”

I was beginning to understand the power gratitude holds in seeing life for what it is and not for what we can buy it for.

There was no longer a need to buy things. I was finding fulfillment in life instead of things as I had done for so many years before.

I still have a gratitude practice. I still cry on occasion. I still get those overwhelming tingly all over grateful to be human feelings.

When you look at the simple and seemingly insignificant things for joy, life becomes happier and more fulfilling.

It guides you on your minimalism journey, it clarifies what you should toss, what you should keep and what to allow back into your life.

coffee cup and journal on table

How to build your own gratitude practice

If you’re new to the world of gratitude and gratitude practices — welcome, I’m glad you’re here. As they say, it’s never too late.
If you’re already on the gratitude train, maybe you’ll find something new here. Or not. #sorrynotsorry

I’m going to teach you a few tricks that helped me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned — it’s trying to reconfigure your brain from “I make $80K a year, have a job and own X, X, and X,” to looking at all the small, seemingly insignificant things in life. We’ll stop your brain from the ‘striving for more‘ mindset to the ‘I love what I have right now in this moment’ mindset. Not that striving for more is very bad, but where does it end? Improving oneself is infinitely better than striving for more success and objects.

It’s inevitable that when we make climbing a ladder of success or keeping up with the Joneses our primary life story, we start to neglect and forget the most important things we should be grateful for. Such as?

Well, we strive for a fancy car but neglect the very health, bodies, and minds that help us to earn an income and gain that object.

BTW, striving for objects is not healthy. Sure, we all like to shop for pretty things to surround ourselves with but making that our primary goal in life is wrong — with a capital W.

Exercises to free your mind:

Change your idea of success.

Yes, we all want to earn money, myself included but there’s a big difference between chasing success and earning an income for doing something you love. When it comes to your job, think community over competition. When it comes to your home life, think less is more. When it comes to you, know that you are enough and that you are worthy. A lot of success is trying to prove ourselves to others who really don’t care.

Show yourself some love.

The path to gratitude includes showing yourself some love. And I’m not talking about buying yourself a pretty dress or ring from Tiffany’s, I’m talking love your curves, your quirky hair that always finds a way to go frizzy, and your overly passionate view on the environment. Love you. Be grateful for you and who you are. When you are happy and comfortable with who you are, you stop worrying about trying to impress others with shiny objects.

“Until you are happy with who you are, you will never be happy with what you have.” Zig Ziglar

Get to know yourself.

Understanding yourself is key to figuring out your motivations in life, your values and your key personality traits. When you’re at odds with your own personality and not taking care of yourself, or in a career that clashes with your values, you will take it out on yourself in other ways. You’ll become unhappy and engage in addictive and self-destructive behaviours. I destroyed my finances because I was in the wrong career for 16 years. Once I tuned in to how it was draining my energy and going against a lot of my beliefs, I was able to figure out my ideal work environment, what motivates me, and how I work best with others. Big game changer! If you can, I recommend taking the Meyers Briggs and Strong Interest Profile tests.

Related: How Gratitude Led Me To A Simpler Life

Easy ways to practice gratitude daily

Start a gratitude journal.

Each morning and/or evening, write out a gratitude list of things you’re grateful for. It could be your health, your eyesight, the money in your bank account to pay your bills, your job, your blog, a creative community you belong to, etc. The list is endless. But always try to think of the small things that allow you to live comfortably.

Go for a gratitude walk.

This is similar to journaling but just in a different format. I find I do a gratitude/meditation walk in the mornings and do gratitude journaling in the evenings. Whatever works for you.

Start a My Story journal and write your life story.

Writing down our life stories and our many accomplishments and failures helps us to appreciate life. When it’s on paper we often realize that it’s not as bad as we thought it was.

Do an abundance walk around your home.

Open your refrigerator (or cupboards), look at all the food inside, and tell yourself: I am abundant, I have abundance in my life, look at all this great food. *I’m serious. This works. I’ve done it. This one stops me from grocery shopping when I have more than enough in the house.

Here are a few of my gratitude statements to get you thinking simple and on the little things life offers:

I am grateful for a warm, cozy, and comfortable bed to sleep in.

I am grateful for a roof over my head.

I am grateful for a fully functioning car to get me to work.

I am grateful for my eyesight to see this beautiful world.

I am grateful for the birds and their beautiful songs that fill me with happiness.

I am grateful for my creativity.

When you’re faced with hard times, are feeling low, or struggling in your minimalism journey, remember:

  • Be grateful, even for things you loathe.
  • Life can’t always be a basket of peaches or cherries. There are high points, low points and in-between points. It’s how you deal with them that matters.
  • If you hate your job, the home you live in, or your rusty old car, STOP. Hating them brings negativity. Focusing on the lack and brokenness gets you more of that — lack and brokenness. Know that you can change any part of your life.

“What consumes your mind controls your life. Practice Gratitude.”

“Gratitude helps us to see what is there instead of what isn’t”

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” – Brene Brown

Comments +

  1. amy says:

    I love this post. There are so many parts of what you write that resonate with me. I agree about the 20s and 30s. I was so busy trying to get it right, have the right furniture, create a beautiful home, raise perfectly mannered children and lose 10 pounds that I missed out on so much of what was already good. Now, when I am making beds in my kids’ rooms or doing chores, I go slowly and think about them when I pull up the sheets or pick up clothes off the floor and wash a dish. i remind myself how happy I am to have them in my life, how lovely our imperfect home is and how lucky I am to have the time to keep up with it. This post is a great reminder, and the tips are wonderful.

    • Michelle says:

      It’s so true!!! We spend so much time striving for what we were told life should look like and then we get a bit older and realize – what the heck am I doing!?

      All I want now is to slow down. No more rushing, no more missing the small little things.

      I love what you said – “I go slowly and think about them” and “I remind myself how happy I am to have them”. Everything you said there. All of that is what’s most important in life. It sounds to me you’ve found it. Hang onto all of that. 🙂

      Thanks Amy! Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you were able to relate.

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