How To Infuse A Gratitude Practice Into Your Daily Life

photo via  Anthropologie

photo via Anthropologie

What happens when the mind works against the body? The brain processes 80,000 thoughts a day. 90 percent are ones you've thought before while 80 percent are negative. One in six people will experience depression in their lifetime.

Is negativity natural to the human condition? I hope not, but I want to do more than hope. I want to change my most harmful thought patterns to live a life filled with love and gratitude every day.

How Daily Gratitude Impacted Me in a Few Months

I started with reading and then began working on incorporating small acts of mindfulness every day. I began to subtly place a marker where I noticed negative thinking. Depending on the thought or life circumstance, mindfulness, Buddhist practices, and Morita therapy-focused Zen habits have all positively shifted my day-to-day in the last six months.

I’ve learned I can choose to get out of my own way. You can't control others or life circumstances, but you can manage your thought patterns. Wasteful thinking burns through time, so I stay mindful of it and move on to what gives meaning to my life.

Additionally, I ensure that my first words of the day express gratitude. It sets the tone for the day. My words are often as simple as, "I woke up today and smelled the coffee." Maybe the roses, too. Maybe it's "I love my family and myself, just as I am." Sounds cheesy, but the best things come with a side of cheese.

These simple approaches impressed upon me how simple our complicated lives can get when we practice moving with ourselves and life instead of against it all.

Practices to Find More Gratitude in Your Everyday

Gratitude blocks out strong negative emotion. Focus on what is, and you eliminate distractions of what's missing. Your attitude, alone, belongs to you to stay present in every moment. Here are four practices you can try to be more grateful in your everyday life:

1. Buddhist Principles

Yoga and mindful breathing stem from Buddhist practices that help you find gratitude in the moment as you discover yourself within it. Buddhist readings have truly altered my mindset.

Buddhist thinking gives us the concept that something as simple as washing the dishes should be appreciated and focused upon. Don’t let your mind stray to other thoughts — focus on the circular motion of your hand as you wash the plate in front of you, the running of the hot water.

Catch yourself in the moment, and when you lose it, bring yourself back. Do what works for you, whether that's pausing, blinking, chanting, yoga, or breathing.

My book recommendation for beginners: Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh

2. Zen-Influenced Morita Therapy

Morita therapy is a Japanese form of therapy that acknowledges that negative thinking is part of the human condition, but that's not all of the experience. The therapy allows people to "re-orientate themselves in the natural world" and restores the person's natural capacity to nurture their well-being. Many negative thoughts are natural features of human thought.

Focus on the positive reinterpretation of events and thoughts that hold you back. It doesn't diminish any wrongs done to you or felt by you, but it helps you live your life in a more empowered and grateful way.

I now wake up refreshed and patient. I don't believe most people describe themselves as waking up "patient," but it's a great way to start the day. Traffic? Okay. No coffee? Water's great. Loud neighbor? Breathe. At some point, you go through "enough," to focus on what you have in the present moment. What's enough for you?

My book recommendation for beginners: Playing Ball on Running Water: The Japanese Way to Building a Better Life by David K. Reynolds

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Take into consideration if any negative thing that’s impacting you in this moment is still going to matter a month or a year down the line. It’s not fun to do, but I want you to imagine for a moment that you suddenly had something really drastic happen in your life. Would you wish you had the moments from when times were simpler back to appreciate them more?

This is not to say that negative feelings shouldn’t be recognized and felt. However, it’s crucial to prioritize what you expend your energy thinking and worrying about and learn to place each of your thoughts where they belong.

Take up a mindful hobby, such as meditating, gardening, or journaling. For me, writing down my thoughts and gratitude gives me a space to hold these, let them go, or analyze them. Turn gratitude into a daily habit by writing in a journal. What is one thing or ten things you're grateful for today?

Also, show appreciation for your loved ones and others. Express gratitude in small ways and smile with those you love. Grabbing someone some tea, washing the dishes, or hugging someone are all acts of kindness, gratitude, and love.

My book recommendation for beginners: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff) by Richard Carlson

Live Fully Present

My ability to live and love with gratitude in the present has shifted how I enter every day when I wake up. I feel more patient and refreshed and stand in my own way far less often. Use these practices to try to help yourself find more joy, peace, and gratitude in your everyday life, and live each moment fully present.