I still don’t consider myself a “morning person”, but I don’t think I’m the morning monster I used to be. I used to wake up hating life and wanting to go back to bed. I thought this was normal. At least it was normal to me at that time. I didn’t care to cross paths with anyone until I had “thawed out”-for their own benefit! These days I still wake up a little groggy and out of sorts for the first few minutes, but I usually start the day off in a good place. Looking back, I don’t remember when this shift happened. It was probably a gradual change as most lasting changes are. However, I think I know WHY my morning demeanor has evolved. I believe that a conscious effort to devote some attention to gratitude first thing in the morning has been the number one reason for this positive transformation.
I’ve always been into learning about personal development. A few years ago I noticed the theme of gratitude was a recurring one in much of the content I was consuming. I figured it couldn’t hurt to see if there was something to it! While there are many creative suggestions on how to infuse gratitude practices throughout your day, there are two that have become a lasting part of my daily routine: I think of five things that I’m grateful for as soon as I wake up in the morning and I think of five things from the day that I’m grateful for before bed. I think I’ve been able to stick with these because they’re simple, fast, and effective. It’s an instant way to shift any negativity that’s lurking around.
In addition to feeling better before bed and in the morning, I find myself automatically recognizing opportunities for gratitude throughout my days. I take a lot less for granted. I’ve also found that the habit of being grateful has greatly replaced my habit of complaining. I spend much less time dwelling on annoyances, especially ones that I have no control over. Instead, I now tend to focus on what I can appreciate and take away from the situation.
I knew that I was feeling these effects, but I didn’t know there was an actual term for these phenomena. While reading the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, I learned of a condition known as The Tetris Effect. This is the term gamers coined when they noticed themselves trying to constantly fit shapes together in their minds while going through their everyday lives after playing hours of Tetris. What does this have to do with gratitude? Well, we’re trained to look for issues and conditions to complain about. Focusing on what we’re grateful for can reprogram our psyches to do the opposite. I am definitely a believer now that it has happened to me. If you’re not so sure, why not give it a try? What do you have to lose besides your bad attitude? I jest. 😉
Here are some additional tips to make this practice more effective:
- Focus on the feeling of gratitude when you’re thinking of what you’re grateful for. Sometimes I find myself just going through the motions and listing what I’m grateful for instead of really feeling appreciative. When I catch myself and really hone in on those positive feelings, it makes all the difference.
- Try to mix it up. If you focus on being grateful for the same things each day, you can fall into that trap of just listing and not actually feeling grateful. While I do have some things that are on my daily list because I genuinely do feel grateful for them on a daily basis, I try to scan all areas of my life and incorporate a couple new ones each day.
- Why stick to this practice only in the morning? I like to do this when I feel myself starting to get into a bad mood for any reason and randomly throughout the day. I’d like to start incorporating it before and after meals as well.
- Find the gratitude practice that works for you. Shawn Achor and Oprah Winfrey don’t just think of what they’re grateful for; they keep a gratitude journal and write in it each morning. The Happiness Advantage also mentions some families doing this around the table at dinner time. There are a million different ways to get your gratitude on. Have fun finding one that works for you. If you can find a way to incorporate it into your morning routine, even better…I have a feeling you’ll soon start noticing even more to be grateful for.
Do you already have a gratitude practice in place? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions!