It is easy to become caught up in your day-to-day life. It’s easy to almost forget the control you have over your days. There have been mornings I enter my car frustrated, running late, and generally ungrateful for my position in the world. After one too many of those days, I decided I needed to work on my efforts to be more present.
I had seen many friends, influencers, commencement speakers and other people with opinions I trusted speak on the topic of gratitude. For a long time, I felt silly because I could not seem to replicate their success. I heard “it’s hard for a grateful heart to be angry” more times than I could count, but I was not sure how to make my own heart grateful. How do you turn your sense of luck and fortune for what you have into thankfulness and gratitude?
After much trial and error, here are four steps that helped me in my mission to live a more present, grounded, intentional and grateful life.
1. Start a gratitude journal.
I started with this one because I felt I would be more likely to stick with the habit if I went through a book that guided me through it, but it can be just as easy to make your own. The important part is to use it as consistently as possible. The most impactful time for me to write in my gratitude journal has been in the morning so that I’m able to start off my day on a positive note. Typically, when my phone alarm rings, I try (it’s easy to give in to temptation on this one!) to turn it off without looking at my notifications and go straight to journaling. Once my three “grounding minutes” are over, I can enter the cyber world once more.
2. Pick your mantra for the day.
This habit can make you feel out of your element at first, but it has been by far the most life-changing technique for me. Every day I pick what kind of intentions I want to bring forward with me. Do I want to be productive, knowing all that I have to tackle at work? Do I want to be kind, given that I am upset with how someone treated me recently? Maybe I want to be generous because the day prior was so good to me. Whatever my hopes may be, I pinpoint three adjectives to describe what I want my day to be like moving forward. Then I use those adjectives as a guiding light for my actions throughout the day.
For me, saying these affirmations aloud is most effective. For example, I might say, “Today I aim to be present, kind, and optimistic in all my actions.” You can also say them in your head, mouth the words, or write them down. However you do it, thinking about what you want your day to be will make your everyday life feel more intentional and under your control.
3. Enter the day with the viewpoint that it will be a good one, because you’ll make it a good one.
This idea connects back to the desire of living intentionally. After I say my day’s mantra, I tell myself, “Today will be a great day, because I will make it a great day.” When I do so, I take extra effort to acknowledge the little naysaying voice that might argue back “it won’t be great because you have to go to the DMV” or “how can it be great with such a rough start?”
I’m fortunate to have the ability to influence my own outlook — when I know a task in the day will surely frustrate me, I work harder to make the day a great one before and after that task. Focusing on what is in my control has allowed me to feel like I am the keeper of my daily attitude towards life.
4. List 10 things you are grateful for at the same time each day.
This tip is easy to adjust as you have time and energy for it. On days that you’re really down, a short list of gratitudes is enough to still make a difference. You can say, write or think these gratitudes, and they can be as simple or as big as you want them to be. In the beginning of this exercise, listing 10 gratitudes felt like a lot, but the longer I continued this habit, the easier it became. If you feel like you are reciting gratitudes without really meaning them, a good starting point can be to think of something that typically can make your life harder that didn’t happen on a given day. For example, “I’m grateful that I had time to eat breakfast this morning” or “I’m grateful that I didn’t hit traffic today.”
For inspiration, I’ve included five things I’m grateful for today below:
- A computer to write this on
- My Sunday night that felt relaxing, not scary
- My new extra-large water bottle that holds twice as much water
- A beautiful dog who will happily watch me type
- My ability to afford a Spotify subscription so I can listen to music ad-free
Remember: Perfection is not the goal.
Living intentionally, and approaching each day with gratitude, can be a difficult and overwhelming process. Forgiving my slip-ups along the way, and adjusting my methods as needed, has made my efforts feel more seamless. If I am too frustrated to write in my gratitude journal one morning, I do not let it snowball into the next. If I am feeling extra grateful one day, I try to capitalize on that moment and recognize each extra factor adding to my positive outlook.
While practicing these habits in the morning has proved most impactful for me, I know many others find the evening to be a better choice so that you can enter sleep feeling thankful and calm. Regardless of what you choose, any step is a powerful one!
Anna Craven is a publicist and writer from Boston, MA. She loves finance, organization, and most of all, storytelling. You can follow her adventures with her rescue pup, Mickey, here.
Image via Unsplash