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  • Writer's pictureLynn Cukaj

Practicing Gratitude for a Better Life

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC, MHC-LP www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com

Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults


Embracing gratitude yields remarkable benefits. Countless studies have revealed its profound impact on our mental well-being, immune system, sleep quality, and even our relationships with those we cherish. The question then arises: How can we effectively cultivate gratitude in our lives?


Like any skill worth mastering, practice is the key. Therefore, the secret lies in seamlessly integrating the practice of gratitude into our daily routines. As we consistently direct our attention towards the things we are grateful for, an extraordinary transformation occurs. The more we focus on our blessings, the more they become apparent to us. This harmonious weaving of gratitude into our daily existence leads us to a heightened sense of optimism, an increased experience of joy and fulfillment, a natural inclination to extend help and generosity, and a profound sense of connection that alleviates feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Tips: How To Nurture Gratitude

“Little Wins” Activity: Embracing precious moments that bring a sense of joy, accomplishment, or gratitude, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Celebrating these small moments can help cultivate a positive and grateful outlook on life. Here are some examples:


  • Arriving on time for work or a significant commitment

  • When your children enthusiastically wake up and enjoy breakfast

  • Finding a close parking spot when you're in a rush

  • Receiving a compliment from a colleague or a stranger

  • How the sunbeam dances through your window

  • When you complete a workout or exercise routine, even if it's a short one

  • Crossing off multiple items from your to-do list


By cherishing and acknowledging these small yet delightful moments of joy, you weave an intricate web that, with time, fortifies your capacity to recognize the goodness that surrounds you.

Activity: The Power of Gratitude & Self-Observation: Heighten your awareness of when and how often you express gratitude throughout the day. Take a moment to reflect on the emotions accompanying your expressions of thanks. Do you feel stressed, annoyed, rushed, or are you merely operating on auto-pilot, with your mind preoccupied by the next interaction? The true essence of offering gratitude lies in being fully present in the here and now. Embrace the opportunity to savor each moment of gratitude, allowing it to blossom with genuine warmth and sincerity.


Human Connection Activity: Choose an interaction from the day and focus on how that moment made you feel truly grateful. Be intentional with your words, thoughts, and feelings surrounding this particular interaction. As you bask in the warmth of this experience, feel that sense of happiness within you and direct a heartfelt "thank you" towards yourself for embracing this source of joy. By engaging in this practice, you not only cultivate gratitude but also strengthen your ability to live in the present, experiencing each moment with heightened awareness and appreciation.



The Joy of Acknowledge the Good Activity: When positive moments occur in your day, affirm their presence in your life. Did the mailman bring a heavy package right to your door instead of leaving it at the mailbox? Did someone hold the door open for you at the store? Or did a stranger offer you a friendly smile today? These simple acts of kindness are directed towards your happiness, and by recognizing and appreciating them, you encourage a focus on the positive aspects of life. This practice becomes a way to embrace gratitude in your daily routine.


Unleash the Magic of a Gratitude Journal: Incorporate the essence of gratitude into your daily life with the simple yet transformative practice of keeping a Gratitude Journal. Each day, or a few times a week, set aside 5-10 minutes in the morning or at night to reflect and express gratitude for the ordinary events that fill your day.


Take a moment to self-reflect and consider these four essential questions about your relationships and interactions:

  1. What good things have I received today?

  2. How have I been kind to others today?

  3. Have I caused any troubles or difficulties, and what can I learn from them?

  4. What challenges have I overcome, and what positive outcomes have resulted?


When keeping a Gratitude Journal, remember the following key principles:

  • Be specific and detailed in your expressions of gratitude.

  • Focus on appreciating people more than material possessions.

  • Find lessons, silver linings, and positive aspects in difficulties and disappointments.

  • Value continuity, consistency, dependability, and reliability in your relationships.

  • Stay consistent in your journaling practice to make gratitude a regular part of your life.


Gratitude & Art Therapy


The following Art Therapy activity is about exploring your imagination and expressing your emotions through a unique blend of words and visuals. It uses the following Emotion Poem as a prompt which contains a range of emotions and the ways they impact our lives. Through expressing gratitude with our emotions, we gain insight into our thoughts and feelings. Enjoy the process and let gratitude guide your artistic journey.

Emotion Poem

When I am sad, I want to cry.

When I am proud, I want to fly.

When i am curious, I want to know.

When I am impatient, I want to go.

When I am bored, I want to play.

When I am happy, I smile all day.

When I am shy, I want to hide.

When I am depressed, I stay inside.

When I am puzzled, I want to shrug.

When I am lovable, I kiss and hug.

(Author unknown)


Emotion Poem Activity: Feeling Gratitude for our Emotions

  1. Begin by copying and pasting the Emotion Poem into a word document.

  2. Print the page and cut out specific lines that deeply resonate with you.

  3. Take your chosen lines and paste or tape them into your journal.

  4. Reflect on each selected line and create a drawing or write something related to that specific emotion.

  5. Allow yourself to explore the significance of these emotions and the gratitude they bring into your life.

  6. Embrace the process with an open heart, using art as a conduit to understand your feelings and thoughts.


Emotion Poem Activity: Emotion Poem Remix Integrating Art

  1. Cut up the Emotion Poem into individual sentences, like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be arranged.

  2. Play around with the sentences and experiment with different combinations until you find a sequence that deeply resonates with you.

  3. Incorporate drawing into your creation, whether it's a colorful illustration, an abstract representation, or a symbol, let your artwork complement the emotions conveyed by the rearranged lines.

  4. Place the sentences over your drawing thoughtfully, creating a meaningful connection between words and visuals.

  5. Take a moment to appreciate your masterpiece and the emotions it evokes. Embrace the power of your creativity and feel grateful for the personal and expressive artwork you've crafted.


 

Discover the profound connection between gratitude and mindfulness as you embark on a journey of self-awareness and appreciation. By cultivating the skill of gratitude, you naturally hone your mindfulness abilities, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the present moment.


Breathe in the positive energy that life offers, and exhale genuine gratitude for all that it presents.


 

For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.


Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here: www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com

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