“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~Thornton Wilder
I believe being grateful and thankful is a big part of a happy and SMART Life. In fact, in case you didn’t know it, the “T” in SMART stands for thankful. Because of that, during November for the last three years I have challenged myself, and any of you who are interested, to a monthly gratitude practice that I’m convinced will increase our awareness of its importance. If you are interested, here’s what I did for the 2012 Gratitude Challenge and the 2013 Gratitude Challenge. For this year, I have gravitated to the idea of several other bloggers here on the web promoting what they call TToT, or Ten Things of Thankful. Using their example, I intend to simply write out ten things for which I am grateful for each and every day for the entire month of November.
Before you panic and think I will be emailing you a blog post each and every day, I’ll only be posting them on the SMART Living 365 Facebook page so if you are interested in mine, you can go there to read them. But what I’m hoping more than anything is that you join with me to establish a habit of feeling gratitude. Why? Because as I’ve described before, when we practice being thankful on a regular basis there are at least ten benefits:
- Feel significantly better about your life as a whole and more optimistic about the future.
- Report fewer health complaints like colds or flu—along with a higher immune system;
- Exercise more;
- Get more sleep and have better sleep quality;
- Are less materialist—you’ll appreciate experiences and relationships rather than “stuff”;
- Feel more connected to other people and the world around you;
- Report higher levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy as opposed to a focus on struggle or pain;
- More likely to have made progress toward reaching important personal goals;
- Better able to stay in the present moment and focus on the good you are experiencing right now in spite of any difficulties you might be experiencing.
- Show that it is nearly impossible to be deeply grateful and unhappy at the same time.
Of course in order to reap the full benefits of gratitude it needs to be a habit. That’s one way this challenge can be especially beneficial. And remember the old saying, “It takes 21 days to make something a habit?” The truth is that it takes as long as it takes. Fortunately, having motivation, persistence and a supportive group of like-minded people can help make the “good habit making” journey easier. That’s why I’m hoping we can do this challenge together.
New information about making changes and forming new positive habits is also useful. I recently came across some pointers by a business coach named Tom Bartow. His habit model consists of three main phases.
#1 The Honeymoon. This phase speaks for itself. During the first few days of our gratitude challenge it will probably be both fun and easy. Any time we start something new that we want to become a habit, the inspiration and novelty of it is usually enough to keep us going in the beginning. Then comes the…
#2 The Fight Thru. Forbes author Jason Selk says, this is where, “Inspiration fades and reality sets in.” The full weight of the commitment starts feeling more and more an obligation, while old, more comfortable habits lurk nearby hoping to distract us and lead us off course. At this point, there are three helpful techniques that will help us to “fight thru.” They are:
- Stay awake and aware. Just like with anything important in our lives the best way to work through any challenge is to go around or over it—not to stay and fight. But first we have to be keenly aware that it is happening. If we really want to increase gratitude in our lives we must stay awake to the temptation to let it fade away.
- Use emotion to help. Asking ourselves how we will feel if we do what we hope to accomplish can inspire us. Asking ourselves how we will feel if we don’t can be equally motivating. Staying in touch with the emotions involved can help us to both remember why we are doing what we are doing, and the many benefits we hope it will bring.
- Life projection. In addition to staying awake and aware, and using our emotions to keep us motivated, it can also be helpful to project ourselves into the future and image what our lives will be like with or without our new desired habit. Of course, in order for this to work for you in relation to gratitude, you must be convinced that being more thankful will increase the quality and experience of your life. Finally we arrive at….
#3 Second Nature. Once we’ve managed to stick with any desired change we will eventually move into what Tom Bartow calls second nature. Of course, there are still a few things that can pop up and discourage us, so it’s wise to remember that things like: 1) the discouragement monster can rear his ugly head now and then; 2) there are always disruptions that can throw us off track; and 3) the seduction of success can lead us to believe that we’ve “arrived” and never need to work on ourselves or our challenges again.
So what am I suggesting with this TToT Challenge? Starting tomorrow November 1st, and each and every day during the month of November, take the time to write down 10 things that you are grateful or thankful for. As I mentioned, I’m going to post mine on Facebook but I’ll probably start by writing them in my daily journal every morning. On the other hand, I’ve read that writing a gratitude list right before bedtime can be extremely beneficial. Whatever works best for you is what you are likely to stay with, so where and when is really up to you.
Some people might like to believe that living a SMART and positive life only happens to those who are lucky or born at the right time or the right place. But from my perspective, nearly all of us can influence on our lives more than we usually admit. Using our ability to create positive habits, focus and intentions is a big key. During the next 30 days I hope you join me in making gratitude more of a habit in your life. As a man named Charlie Gilkey said, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” With TToT, I intend to spend mine with a focus on being thankful.
Please let me know in the comments below or on the SMART Living 365 Facebook Page that you are joining this challenge. Then be assured I will be cheering you on every day in November!
A special thank you to the blog “Considerings—Life In Silver Linings” for creating the TToT idea!