Practicing Gratitude for a Better Life
By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com
Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults
Practicing gratitude has incredible effects. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude benefits our mental health, strengthens our immune system, aids in sleep and improves our relationships with loved ones. But how does one practice gratitude?
With every new skill, practice is the key to mastering it. Therefore, the key is to incorporate the practice of gratitude into our daily life. The more you bring your attention to what you feel grateful for, the more you will notice what you feel grateful for. When gratitude is woven into our daily life, we tend to feel more optimistic, experience more joy and pleasure, offer more help and generosity, ultimately feeling less lonely and isolated.
Tips: How To Foster Gratitude
“Little Wins” Activity: Being on time for work or other important engagement, when all the kids get up and eat breakfast, when no one forgets anything so there is no reason to go back home, when the sun shining in the window creates a rainbow, when the flowers in the garden are catching the light. Acknowledging the small moments of joy can be strung together to create a web that over time strengthens your ability to notice the good.
Self-Observation Activity: Notice when you say thank you. How many times do you say it in a day? When you say thank you, how do you feel inside? Stressed? Annoyed? Rushed? On Auto-pilot? Are your thoughts already on your next interaction? The goal when you offer your gratitude is to be in the here and now.
Human Connection Activity: Choose an interaction from the day and focus on how that moment made you feel truly grateful. Be intentional with your thoughts, feelings, and verbalizations of your feelings and thoughts surrounding this particular interaction. Naturally, you will begin to feel a sense of happiness and at this moment, say “thank you” to yourself for this moment that made you happy. You are not only working on your gratitude, but you are practicing mindfulness.
Momentary Happiness Activity: When good things happen to you during the day, affirm that good things have been received. Did the mailman bring a heavy package to your door instead of leaving it at the mailbox? Did someone hold the door for you at the store? Did a stranger smile at you today? These are all gestures of kindness that were directed toward your happiness and if acknowledged, it can encourage you focus on the positive, which is a way to practice gratitude.
Keep a Gratitude Journal: Keeping a journal is a reminder of how ordinary events in your day can be expressed in gratitude. Practice this daily or a few times a week, in the morning or at night, and take 5-10 minutes to write or draw something from your day that you are grateful for. The goal is to give yourself time to reflect.
If you need a place to start, you can ask yourself 4 questions that will help you reflect on your relationships and interactions:
What have I received today?
What have I given today?
What troubles or difficulty have I caused?
What have I resolved?
When keeping a Gratitude Journal, remember the following:
Try to be as specific as possible about what you are grateful for: focus on behaviors, elaborate on the event, give details about why you feel grateful.
Focus on people rather than objects.
Identify how you have overcome a difficulty, challenge, disappointment, or prevented one and what positive came out of it.
Have a different perspective on the people in your life. Be grateful for continuity, consistency, dependability, and reliability.
Be consistent: Try to write on a regular basis.
Gratitude & Art Therapy
Create a journal using the following Emotion Poem as a prompt. The poem has a variety of emotions listed and ways that those emotions can affect us. By showing gratitude through our emotions, we can better understand our own thoughts and feelings.
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.
Activity #1: You may copy and paste the following poem into a Word Document, change the font and colors to your liking, print the page, take scissors to cut out specific lines that are meaningful to you, paste or tape them into your journal and write or draw something that pertains to that line of the poem.
Activity #2: Cut up the poem and rearrange the sentences in a way that matters to you. You can incorporate drawing a picture and arranging the sentences over the drawing.
By practicing the skill of gratitude, you will be practicing mindfulness skills as well. Breathe in the positive and breathe out the gratitude for life and what life is showing and offering you.
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