Hey friends, and welcome to Episode 104 of It’s About Time – a Podcast sharing stories and strategies to inspire women seeking better Work, Life and Balance. I’m your host time management coach, Anna Dearmon Kornick and today’s episode is all about saying thanks.
If you’re listening in real time, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving 2021, so gratitude and giving thanks tends to be top of mind this time of year.
Not only that, Thanksgiving festivities also tend to be the official kickoff to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Last year in 2020, the Holiday season looked a lot different for our family.
While we did have a small Thanksgiving gathering with close family, our December calendar definitely wasn’t filled with the typical holiday parties, dinners and get-togethers.
You know, it’s like the year moves in slow motion from January to March. Then the tempo picks up a bit in the spring when the days get longer. Summer is a mix – feeling painstakingly slow one minute, but then a getaway to the beach passes by in a blur. And then, once Thanksgiving arrives, all bets are off and it’s 90 miles an hour til the New Year.
While you certainly don’t have to wait until the busiest time of year to think about gratitude – of course you can, and should be thankful for what you have all year long – when life feels like an unstoppable conveyor belt, practicing gratitude is actually more important than ever.
And that’s exactly what I’m talking about here in Episode 104.
First, I’m sharing some of the amazing mental and physical benefits of cultivating gratitude on a regular basis. Turns out saying thanks is not only the nice thing to do, it’s really good for you!
- Then, you’ll hear why a gratitude practice doesn’t have to be complicated, stuffy or formal
- I’ll talk about how you can realistically incorporate intentional gratitude moments into your already busy days,
- And finally, I’ll share 3 super easy ideas you can steal to create your own gratitude mini moments.
Alright – let’s jump right in, shall we? Gratitude.
When you think of gratitude what comes to mind first?
For me – I think of Thanksgiving, obviously. But I also think of thank you notes. I wrote what felt like hundreds of Thank you notes for wedding gifts when scott and I got married. And then again for baby gifts when Millie was born.
I did a quick search for the history of Thank you Notes and found that the earliest versions of thank you notes go back to the 1400s when Europeans exchanged notes with friends and family. Typically delivering them by hand. Thank you notes made their way to the US in the mid 1850s, and availability of postage stamps really helped thank you notes take off as a practice.
When you express thanks to someone for a gift, a kind gesture, a meal, for hosting a party, for their contribution to a project at work – whatever it is – saying thanks makes people feel appreciated and loved. It’s a sign of respect, and you’re acknowledging their effort, which can then motivate them to do more of what they were thanked for or go the extra mile in the future.
But saying thank you to someone is also the simplest form of expressing gratitude.
But there’s more to gratitude than saying thank you to others – there’s the consistent practice of being thankful for what you already have.
We’ve all heard before that having an “attitude of gratitude” has tons of positive benefits. And it’s true.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to ease symptoms of anxiety, improve your mood, cultivate an optimistic outlook and more.
Those who regularly practice gratitude even sleep better, and express more kindness and compassion toward others.
After the past year and a half of living through a pandemic, gratitude could be just what the doctor ordered.
After interviewing countless individuals in over a decade of research, Brene Brown says that she “did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.”
She found that practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.
I mean – c’mon. Who couldn’t use a little more joy? And if Brene’s research connects gratitude and joy, then I’m all in.
But here’s the thing – when the joyful folks she talked to said they practiced gratitude, they didn’t just, you know, have an attitude of gratitude, or feel grateful. They had an actual practice, a routine or a habit in place.
And this is what I want to really unpack. This whole gratitude practice thing.
Something about the word “gratitude practice” almost makes it feel like work – just another thing to add to your already mile-long to-do list.
So, I am someone who really enjoys big picture thinking. Give me one small idea, and I’ll take it and run with it and sometimes run a little too big and a little too far, and then all of a sudden the idea feels huge and impossible so it doesn’t go anywhere. When, if I’d just let it be one small idea, then it’d feel doable.
If I think about gratitude practice, then I might get in my head that I need to go buy a gratitude journal, and spend time journaling for 15 minutes every morning – and then I realize oh wow, I’d need to wake up earlier to do that, and then I’d spend an hour looking for the perfect journal and then just give up.
But It doesn’t have to be that way.
As much as the world tells us to think big! Go big! Do it big! This is one area where, you know what – it’s okay to think small. Go small. And do it small.
Because sometimes small is what it takes to make things happen. And a gratitude practice that never gets off the ground isn’t a practice at all.
Like I remember one of my time management coaching clients – we were working together to design her shut down routine. Which – if you’re curious about shut down routines, you can hear more about that in Episode 5.
But she had this big idea that she was going to write 5 thank you notes at the end of each day. Which I mean, that sounds lovely. But what happened? She ended up writing exactly zero, because she felt like if she didn’t have enough time for five, then she didn’t have enough time for any.
So if you’re like me, or if you’re like my ambitious client – think about what you might like to do to practice gratitude and dial it back a notch.
Instead of writing 5 handwritten thank you notes each day, she instead sent one email thanking a member of her team for a contribution they’d made in the past week. It was big enough to have an impact, but small enough to actually happen.
So – if there’s one thing you take away from this episode – in order to actually do it. Don’t try to overdo it.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how to realistically incorporate a gratitude practice into our already busy lives.
Making gratitude easy comes down to habit-stacking.
Habit-stacking is the strategy of taking an existing habit, something you’re already doing without thinking, and adding something new to the mix.
Before long, the new thing – in this case, the gratitude practice, just becomes second nature. A new habit. A gratitude habit.
So – ask yourself: What’s something you already do every day without fail? And how can you turn it into a gratitude mini-moment?
Plus – calling it a mini-moment just makes it feel even simpler and easier to do. And that’s what we want right? Simple! Not complicated.
Here are three habit stacking gratitude mini-moments that you can steal just in time for the busy holiday season so you can be intentional about gratitude and cultivate more joy in your life.
Gratitude Mini Moment Number 1: One of the most common examples of a habit is brushing our teeth, because hopefully that’s something we’re all doing at least twice a day, without fail.
So if you decide to use brushing your teeth to habit stack your gratitude practice, here’s 1 way you could do it.
Grab a sticky note and write the word gratitude, then put the sticky note near where you keep your toothbrush.
Next time you brush your teeth, you see the gratitude sticky note, and you think of one thing you’re grateful for.
Boom. Gratitude practice.
Next Gratitude Mini Moment Number 2: dinner. We’ve all gotta eat, and whether you’re sharing a meal with family or you’re dining solo on takeout in front of the TV – it’s a great consistent opportunity to think about thanks.
I mentioned Brene Brown earlier. Once she learned that a gratitude practice equals more joy, she kicked off a new family tradition in which everyone would go around the table each night at dinner and share one thing they’re thankful for. It could be big, small, serious, not-so-serious – just something.
If you’re a consistent breakfast eater, or if you make a cup of coffee each morning, you could also tie your gratitude mini moment to those habits. It doesn’t matter the meal, as long as you’re consistent.
Alright – Gratitude mini moment 3. Sometimes when you have trouble coming up with a habit to stack, you’ve got to get a little creative…
Here’s an example: A while back, one of my time management coaching clients wanted to create a more consistent prayer habit, but was having trouble finding something consistent in her day besides brushing her teeth.
When you do 12 hour shifts on inconsistent days of the week like so many in the healthcare industry, or you just have a weird, unpredictable schedule – instead of tying your gratitude mini moment to an existing habit, tie it to a landmark.
For my client, the stop sign at the end of her street became her habit landmark, and every time she paused at the stop sign before leaving her neighborhood, she said a quick prayer.
Do you have a stop sign at the end of your street? Is there a billboard you always pass, or a bridge you always cross? Maybe instead of a landmark, you think of something you’re grateful for every time you open your garage door? Whatever you choose, having a landmark to designate as a gratitude mini moment spot is another super easy way to incorporate consistent gratitude into your everyday life.
Alright – I said I was sharing 3 ideas, but I’ve got a bonus for you real quick before we go.
I mentioned earlier that so often when we think of starting a gratitude practice, that we envision a gratitude journal as being the only way, or the main way to practice gratitude. And the thought of journaling can feel really intimidating or cumbersome, so we give up before we even get going.
One way to make gratitude journaling super simple is with just a single sentence a day. Back in Episode 103, I told you about my friend Christa Hutchins’ journal called the Moving Forward journal. It’s a super simple sentence a day journal that would be ideal for kicking off a simple gratitude practice and creating a gratitude mini moment in your day. And, I have include a discount code for you to save 20% – ANNA20
So there you have it.
I would LOVE to know what your new gratitude mini moment will be. Come find me on Instagram and tell me!
I’ve decided to start my day with gratitude and will be adding that sticky note next to my toothbrush to kickstart the habit stacking.
Before we go, let me tell you a little bit about next week’s episode – Episode 105.
2021 has been a doozy. In so many ways it was much, much harder on me than 2020 was. And now that the year is winding down, I can clearly see why – and I won’t be making this mistake ever again. My mistake? I didn’t set goals for the year. I can hardly believe it myself. And I really can’t believe I’m admitting it. Next week I’ll be sharing a little bit about what this year was like for me, why I’ve totally learned my lesson and what I’m doing to prep for 2022 to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Alright – that’s it for today. Thanks so much for tuning in. Talk to you soon!