Depending on what books you read or the coaching groups you’re part of, you’ve probably heard about gratitude as an important concept to introduce into your life. Gratitude is often suggested as something you should introduce into your daily habits (usually along with several other habits first thing in the morning).
When I first learned about gratitude, I was very sceptical about its impact on my life. However, in the last 2-3 years, being grateful has become part of my everyday thinking. In this article, I want to share the ways in which gratitude has helped me, but also how I’ve managed to adopt it (particularly when I was so resistant).
- Being grateful is a big part of helping me to feel content
- If gratitude journaling is hard to stick to, verbally saying you’re grateful works too
- As a business owner, gratitude has helped me appreciate my time, the work that I do, and setting meaningful financial targets.
A word about my past
Unfortunately, throughout most of my adult life, I have been depressed. As I write this article, I’m approaching 40, and it was only about 5 years ago where I overcame depression. I overcame my depression through counselling, making some key changes in my life, and applying cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) suggested to me by my counsellor.
A side note about counselling...If you’re struggling with depression, I do encourage you to ask for help and to do counselling. Lots of people feel shame about counselling, but there’s no need. I proudly tell others that I’ve done counselling and the positive effects its had on me.
I chose to pay privately for counselling. This gave me the freedom to experiment with finding the right counsellor for me. I tried 4 different counsellors before I found the right counsellor for me. (Thanks Shirley!).
Big Tip: ‘Experiment’ with finding the right counsellor for you.
Gratitude is a particularly useful part of overcoming depression, as the idea behind gratitude is to focus on the parts of your life that you really love. You take the time to savour the people (e.g. partner, children, parents, family, friends), the things (e.g. your home, your garden, your car, a workshop), and moments (e.g. time spent with your favourite people, enjoying hobbies).
I spent some time experimenting with how to include gratitude in my life and having done so, I feel significantly happy compared to past years. I’ll share how I adopted gratitude later, but first, let’s begin with the benefits.
Benefit #1 – I’m more grateful for the time flexibility that I have as a business owner
I’m sure you’ve had frustrations and moments in your business just like I have, where the idea of a job is very tempting. As business owners, we have (or the potential to have) extraordinary freedom with our time.
For me, I’m grateful that I can go to my son’s school events (assemblies, sports days), walk him to school, take him to his clubs. This would be significantly more challenging to do if I had a job. I’d probably need the flexibility of a part-time job to work around it.
I’m able to meet my partner during the day with next to no notice. My partner is also a business owner and we can usually work out our commitments to have some quality time together.
Or if I’m feeling exhausted and need rest, then I have the freedom to manage my day so I can take an afternoon off with near-zero notice. Similarly, if I need time to go to the dentist, the doctor or chiropractic appointments.
I feel gratitude (and some pride) for being a business owner to have the freedom to do what I need do during the working day.
Benefit #2 – I focus on attracting the work that I LOVE doing
Once you’ve been in business for a while, you learn how to market yourself to attract the work that you want. It’s taken me a few years, but I really love the clients I work with, and the work that I do for them. Learning to appreciate what work and people fit your business, means you want to attract more of the same.
Choosing the right language in marketing and saying no to the ‘wrong’ work obviously helps with attracting more of the ‘right’ business.
However, customers and clients will feel it when you love working with them, as you’ll give off a very positive ‘vibe’. That’s where being grateful can subconsciously attract more of the same work, either from repeat custom or referrals.
Benefit #3 – I’ve worked out what the business needs to provide financially (it was less than I expected)
Once upon a time, I was very fixated on being a millionaire. I wanted a certain amount of money in the bank, and I wasn’t going to rest until I did it.
About 3 years ago, I spent some time working out exactly what money I wanted to live the life I wanted. That included the home I aspired to live in, exciting adventures on my bucket list, home improvements I’d love to do, investing for the future as well as the monthly bills.
This number was considerably less than I expected and much easier to achieve.
By focusing on what really mattered to me, i.e. what I was genuinely grateful for, I can now structure my business around that financial target. As it’s a modest number, I feel considerably less stress as I work towards building it.
How I adopted gratitude
Having discovered books such as The Miracle Morning*, I learned about the concept of journaling your gratitude (i.e. writing down what you’re grateful for). It’s a really sound approach, and there are growing scientific studies showing the benefits of gratitude (e.g. here and here).
I have a business friend who has managed to journal his gratitude daily for years. I did start with daily gratitude journaling but managed 1 or 2 weeks at most. I couldn’t make it stick as a habit despite every best intent. You might have better success than I have! We are all different.
However, there is something that has worked for me:
Saying out loud or in my head each time I appreciate something. Several times a day.
Some of examples of how I do this:
- When I get into bed, I take a moment to appreciate how soft and comfy my bed feels
- When my partner cooks me a meal, I say out loud that I really appreciate she’s cooked for me
- When my son helps me tidy up, I tell him that I’m grateful that he’s helped me
- When a business friend has referred me some work, I send them a thank you gift and intentionally write a personal message for the gift tag.
- When I take a break at lunch to walk through my local woods, I take a deep breath and say to myself “I really like having this on my doorstep“
- When I have some random luck (such as winning something on a lottery scratch card), I might say to myself “I’m really chuffed I’ve won something“.
- When I take an afternoon off work because I want the rest, I remind myself how grateful I am that I can do that with such freedom.
Whilst writing in a gratitude journal has been a difficult habit for me to adopt, I have managed to crack the habit of being grateful for anything and everything by articulating it verbally.
I no longer actively remind myself to be grateful, I now think or say it automatically.
And as you expect, I definitely recommend learning your version of gratitude to your life.