Sharing my gratitude practice with a small circle of friends has brought me the following benefits:
- Accountability: Getting through the first 40 days of creating a new practice habit is hard for me. Having partners, especially during that “initiation time,” is really helpful. Do you have any old journals? If you’re like me, you probably tried out hundreds of different journaling approaches… well, the shared gratitude practice is the one that sticks with, and for me.
- Relatedness: Sharing these gratitudes with my 2 gratitude partners gives me that daily small glimpse into their lives. Their moods, their big and small gratitudes that range from acknowledging snowfall to deep insights into the soul… It feels like such a privilege to be there with and for them. And to know that they are with me in a similar way. This practice has deepened our friendship, our mutual encouragement and our personal growth (individually and as a small group) in ways that I could have never predicted. It has literally opened wider and deeper worlds for all 3 of us. Had I done this practice alone – there are so many things I would have never learned about my friends or about myself…
- “BLAH Days” Support: even today there are days when I wake up and I simply “don’t feel like it”. I get up in a mood and if I would listen to that – my whole day might become blah… And honestly, if I were doing the gratitude practice alone – I just bet I would be tempted to just skip it (and probably start the descend into one of the many rabbit holes of the mind with that unconscious non-decision). But the shared promise with my partners to be “all in” with this practice has helped me on those days to find 5 gratitudes anyhow – and looking back, those were the days when I actually most needed the practice. And the encouraging reflections from my partners, affirming that it’s going to be ok (I talk more about this in “Gratitude Practice – Part 2”)
- Shared agreements & empowering self reflection: on those “blah days”, when gratitude just seems to elude, that’s when the shared agreements that we have in place really kick in: our shared agreements require to share authentically. So on those blah days it requires me to shift my mind space to (1) find a “real” gratitude, and (2) eliminate any sense of complaining, gossiping, blaming or sarcasm – and so it serves as a great tool to change from that kind of a “mood” back into a sense of possibility and anticipation. I cannot tell you how many new perspectives and solutions I have found for seemingly “impossible days”, simply by looking for a way to talk about it within the scope of our gratitude practice. Yep, this practice is one powerful tool to keep us out of rabbit holes of our endlessly analyzing and intellectualizing minds! (check out my example shared agreement or google for one that resonates – and you’ll see how it can be helpful for this)
- It opens the heart: sharing my appreciation with other people opens the heart in so many ways, as well as my general awareness: I get to see their individual ways of appreciation, and so often it has made me aware of things in my life that I had taken for granted. I believe I have also learned new ways of noticing moments and experiences that deserve appreciation – and it memorialized so many little details of days that I only became significant because they were consciously noticed, shared, witnessed and appreciated.
- Daily habit: I am much more often inclined to actually speak a compliment or appreciation instead of just thinking it. I’ve known myself as a person who genuinely and often says thank you – but I think the way I voice appreciation today has grown much deeper and more meaningful – for me as well as the person receiving the appreciation. So there is a new richness in the way I appreciate the “small stuff”
- Discernment: I believe that Rick Hanson is correct when he talks about how important it is to re-wire our brains for happiness: how, in order to become happier, we continuously need to practice overcoming our brain’s “negativity bias” that tells us focusing more on the “bad stuff” is necessary for our survival. And there are ways to do that without getting into denial, rationalizing or repressing the bad stuff. So I believe we can raise our appreciation, and our capacity for happiness and gratitude – without losing ourselves in a fantasy world. And again, that’s where sharing the gratitude with partners is very helpful to maintain perspective and grounding.
I’m looking forward to your feedback of what else is good about sharing a gratitude practice in the comments!
If you liked this article, you may be interested in:
- Gratitude Practice – Part 1
- Shared Agreements for our Gratitude Practice
- As I began to love myself – a poem by Charlie Chaplin
- How to feel your Feelings, Not their Shadow
- The science of creating a new habit
Marci Shimoff “Happy for No Reason”
Katherine Woodward Thomas – and her online communities that have taught me about the value of shared agreements.