How I Started a Gratitude Practice

For as long as I can remember, I only had one thing on my Bucket List—to visit India. My grandmother went on a trip around the world when I was a baby. Her stories of India were magical and inspired me to make it my life’s goal to go there someday.

gratitude practice

I woke up on my birthday in 2010 and put it out to the universe that would be the year I’d head to India. And sure enough, through some truly amazing circumstances I can really attribute to nothing more than fate, I crossed off the top and lone item on my Bucket List. Major shout out to Marisa Thalberg and Aveda for making that dream become a reality.

You would think after a lifetime of dreaming about and finally realizing my goal to visit India, I would have felt complete. I mean, the experience profoundly changed me and I was truly grateful for it. But accomplishing my entire Bucket List all at once only made me feel like I was supposed to achieve more. After all, I had so much more life to live, talents to share, things to give. But what was I supposed to do?

About that time, Life Lists and Bucket Lists were all the rage with entire retreats and workshops dedicated to crafting them. No matter how many I attended or how many truly inspiring people’s lists I read, I couldn’t tap into the inspiration to develop my own. In an effort to put the call to create one to rest or even just to buy myself some time, I added one item: Visit 50 countries by 50 (I’m still actively working on this).

But the internal nagging to craft a complete Life List wouldn’t subside. So, to force quit the struggle within, I started capturing a list of things I’d already done that were Bucket List worthy. I created a Reverse Bucket List with lots of happy things like watching the sun rise over the Himalayas, canoeing through a bat cave in Thailand, and road rallying across the US with 1,000+ MINI Cooper owner enthusiasts.

You can read about the time I took Dial-a-Ride to the mall when I was 8 years old. It’s my very first Reverse Bucket List story and my favorite childhood memory.

Then somewhere along the way to creating a Reverse Bucket List full of happy and mostly travel-related memories, I changed my approach. I started including things that didn’t necessary make me the happiest in the moment but that lead to tremendous growth—things like getting diagnosed with Epilepsy when I was a teenager,  having an Ectopic surgery that resulted in emergency surgery and the loss of a child, and going through a really tough legal battle that caused us financial despair. The list evolved and grew.

My thought was that perhaps my past could inspire my future. But, I wasn’t prepared for what would come next.

How Creating a Reverse Bucket List Helped Shape My Gratitude Practice

Not only did listing past experiences help me come up with future opportunities I’d like to take advantage of (my Life List), but my gratitude started growing and my joy started increasing. I was in awe when I thought of how unique we all are not only because of our individual personalities but because of how our difference experiences have shaped us. I found that looking for joy in life’s moments led to more and more gratitude, which then increased my joy. It was this beautiful circle of happiness.

But that only explains the past and the future (Reverse Bucket List and Life List). Don’t get me wrong, showing gratitude for the past and having hope for the future are key. But my joy was never quite as full as when I was mindful of and learned to appreciate daily moments. And this wasn’t as easy for me as going back in time or thinking about the future. Why?

I’m a problem solver. If life’s moments are good, meaning that they don’t require fixing, I simply move on. I am content but I don’t focus on them. I stop when I get to a problem, immediately put on my problem-solving hat, and work to fix it. The challenge? I give those moments all of my attention. I feel really good about it too, because I’m busy, working, accomplishing, achieving, and solving. But, those moments don’t bring me true joy. And in some instances they rob me of joy. I’m so busy working and fixing that I don’t notice the things right around me that may not require anything of me but for which I should be truly appreciative.

How Being Mindful—Focusing on Finding Joy in Daily Moments—is Key to a Gratitude Practice

In an effort to stop and smell the roses so to speak, I bought two journals (I’m a huge journal-er). One was a small gratitude journal where I could capture daily moments I was grateful for. The other one was where I could document all the things about my husband, Troy, that I was appreciative of.

I started a daily gratitude practice. Each morning, I’d write one page in each gratitude journal, detailing what I stood in awe of from the day before. The result? I started noticing all I had to be grateful for each day. And I began seeing things I had completely overlooked before. My love grew for my husband. I looked forward to each new day. And hard moments became more bearable, because I focused on gratitude in those moments. I had the firm belief that I’d grow from those moments. They’d end up on my Reverse Bucket List down the road anyway. So, why complain about them or wish them away today.

How Sharing Plays a Role in Your Gratitude Practice

One day, I was reading in my gratitude journal and read something kind I had written about my mom. I had the thought to take a picture of the entry and text it to her. The simple act of my sharing it with her touched her and it got me thinking. Our expressions of appreciation are not just for those who have done kind things for us. Sharing your gratitude practice can help you find more things to be grateful for.

Now that I’ve developed a gratitude practice that works for me, I want to share it with others.

Join the Nine Joy Street Movement today to up your gratitude practice game and increase your joy. It’s as simple as crafting a Reverse Bucket List, practicing mindfulness daily, and developing a Life List. To add a little icing to the top? Connect with others who are focusing on increasing their gratitude and joy. Here’s how:

  • Share your Reverse Budget List.
  • Participate in our daily mindfulness prompts.
  • Identify others who can help make your Life List goals a reality.

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