By Dr. Danielle

Whenever the end of the year rolls around, there is an inevitable focus on gratitude. This is when you are likely to see all the social media posts and challenges reminding us that gratitude exists. I typically bypass these posts every year, but this year was different. Due to the pandemic, I really slowed down long enough to consider what gratitude is and what it means to me. Truth is, I don’t have a healthy relationship with gratitude. This revelation – and it is a revelation – came after I took a personality test and found that gratefulness was so far down the list of values it was practically off the page. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful. No, not at all but it means that it’s not a priority. This didn’t sit well with me so I decided to do something about it which brings us to my journey with gratitude.

Research shows that one’s relationship with gratitude and the experience of happiness are closely related. In other words, if you are grateful then chances are that you’re happy or, at the very least, content. I am a huge cheerleader for happiness and being grateful for what is present rather than be upset about what isn’t —for my clients.  When did I lose sight of it for myself? I wasn’t sure of the answer to that question but I was determined to find out and here’s how I formed a meaningful relationship with gratitude.

Step 1: Taking the time to be curious

Being curious is a surefire way for me to get a better understanding of myself. It leads to insight into a problem, a novel solution, and heightened awareness of my experiences. Therefore, it only made sense to take time to be curious about my relationship with gratitude. I dedicated some time on a weekend where I would be undisturbed to ask myself thoughtful questions to help get the answers I sought. Some of these questions included: “What is my narrative around gratitude?”, “What are the examples of gratitude that I’ve seen?”, “What are the reasons that being grateful hasn’t been easy for me?”, “Would gratitude look the same for me as it did for everyone else?” “Would it be important for me to be grateful anyway?“ Each question I asked brought me a little more clarity and just the right of amount of discomfort to propel me to the next step.

Step 2: It’s all about the strategy

I often say that “insight without a strategy or plan for how to use it is a waste”. Now that I had spent some time thinking critically, I needed to take the information I had gathered and put it to good use. While being curious, one of the things I learned was that I was not being mindful (see Dr. Gibson’s blog on mindfulness here) in my daily experiences which resulted in missing opportunities to be grateful. I was caught up in the “booked and busy” culture that may work well for others but took me away from being present. In addition to missing these opportunities, I also took for granted the people and things I appreciated. I knew they were important to me but didn’t make an effort to express that appreciation. With that in mind, I created a strategy that required me to slow down, devote times to luxuriate with the things that make life better, and share the love I’m now tapping into.

Step 3: Action!

Good news! Things have changed for me and it’s been for the better since I put my strategy into action. First, I start my day off with the spirit of gratitude. I thank the universe (i.e. creator, higher being, Mother Nature, etc.) for affording me another day to be great and do better than I did before. I can’t emphasize how much that simple change has impacted my day. I get out of bed feeling like I’ve already had the best day just because I am alive and I am whole. Second, I have allowed myself to be more open to seeing and experiencing pleasant and unpleasant things. Although challenging, appreciating the unpleasant experiences has taught me valuable lessons and has certainly served to enhance the value of good experiences. Finally, I was intentional about expressing genuine care toward my friends, family, and colleagues —through words and through actions.

Overall, I think I am in a better place in my relationship with gratitude. The journey is far from over but it has been a rewarding one thus far. If you resonated with this blog and want to begin your own journey with gratitude, I invite you to try out the steps I took and some of your own. For some creative ways to be grateful, check out Dr. Gibson’s collaboration with Katie Couric Media here (insert link to article).