Being a responsible adult sucks.
As a young adult entering my thirties, I'm starting to see more and more that the responsibility I once craved is vastly overrated.
Thinking back to childhood, I recall a feeling of spaciousness in which time didn't exist.
Those hours spent playing outside and running around the neighborhood created a buoyant experience that only knew it was time to go home by the growl of my stomach or the orange setting sun.
Although I didn't recognize it as such at the time, in that fun and light atmosphere, I tasted freedom.
Currently working as a coach, licensed therapist, and doctorate student has forced my default setting to change from one of relaxation to productivity. And that's had a noticeable impact on my mood.
I now sprint through my task list feeling the pressure to perform at a high level every day, effectively turning this race into a marathon. This mentality has slowly decreased the amount of time I spend in stillness and tranquility. And that's what makes practicing gratitude even more important.
When you're used to performing at a high level, you start overlooking the small things that make your life worth living. You fail to appreciate the blessings that make the marathon worth running. And you forget to soak up every moment with your loved ones.
Pausing to reflect and truly feel appreciative for the millions of things going well in your daily life is one of the most valuable practices you can do.
Practicing gratitude not only helps you feel more grounded and peaceful, it also improves your ability to share that love with others. To give back. Say thank you. And re-commit to your heart-held values.
Below is an exercise that can be written or completed aloud. Each number can be used as an individual practice or all 7 can be combined into one exercise.
Here are 7 easy gratitude exercises that make everyone--even the most pessimistic people--feel happier:
1. Identify 3 things that you feel grateful for and appreciate about your life.
These things can be based on the past, present, or future. No category or thing is too big or small to appreciate, however, being specific might be helpful.
2. Identify 3 things that you take for granted but are actually very thankful for.
We all have things that we take for granted. This is the time to reflect and discover which of those you value the most. For me, in this moment, it's physical health.
3. Identify 3 things that you appreciate about yourself.
Pick things that are meaningful. These can involve your personality, your qualities, your actions, or anything else directly related to yourself.
4. Identify 3 things that you feel grateful for about your present--right now--experience.
Be in the here-and-now. Right now, what can you appreciate about your experience? Think about the environment, the time you're taking for your own wellbeing, the chair under your legs, anything that relates to the now.
5. Identify 3 people who had a significant and positive experience on your life.
These can be coaches, mentors, professors, bosses, family members, or anyone else. Call those people to mind and think about how they made a difference in your life.
6. Create a thank you message to those 3 individuals.
A grate way to feel appreciative is to think about sending a thank you letter. You can write and send one if you want, or simply construct one that you would imagine sending to these people. Connect to that appreciation while thinking through your message.
7. Identify the 1 thing that you are most appreciative of (based on the list above) and feel it in your heart.
The whole point of these exercises is to feel it. When you find one of the above that stands out the most--pause and breathe into it. Allow that warmth, love, appreciation, and gratitude to wash over you.
Doing these simple practices will increase the sense of gratitude you feel. And that feeling of appreciation not only improves your relationships, but it also helps you bring more love into your daily life.
Practicing gratitude gives you a taste of that childhood innocence we all miss. It helps us reconnect, if only for a moment, to the playfulness that encapsulated our days in the sun.
The more that we practice gratitude, the more connected we are to the timeless. The sacred. The profound. And the awe of being alive.
For just a moment, forget your responsibilities and tune into your heart. Without pausing to appreciate that which sustains your life, everything just becomes another item on your to-do list.
And life is much, much more than adult obligations.