After reading James Clears’ ‘Atomic Habits’, I wanted to try and add a new habit and get rid of an ‘bad’ one. Reading the book inspired me to apply Clears’ teachings and I knew I needed to choose some easy habits, or low hanging fruit, if you will.
I had been thinking about quitting drinking beer before reading the book, so that seemed like an obvious ‘bad’ habit to change. And although I consider my drinking habit ‘not unhealthy’, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I had been having 2-3 beers pretty much every day for years and decided to try not having any beer for at least two weeks – just to see if I could break the habit.
Similarly, I wanted to try adding a new habit and gratitude seemed like an easy one. Though I easily stopped drinking beer (for the record, I still have maybe one beer once or twice a week now), adding gratitude was harder, but I continue to try. And, really, the experience of struggling to be practice gratitude every day is teaching me more about myself and habits because it’s hard.
So building a gratitude habit is challenging – and why is that?
To me, it’s because 1) it’s hard to notice the immediate results, and 2) I have been trying to practice gratitude during moments of duress, as if to provide a solution to a bad mood.
To address (1), there are immediate results but they may not be what we expect. It is our error to assume what the benefits of gratitude will be. What I have observed is that gratitude is coupled with mindfulness, or ideally, meditation – even briefly. And one small benefit of meditation/mindfulness/gratitude is slowing your heart rate and becoming more calm. But if we are looking for some sort of epiphany, it is easy to miss the fact that practicing gratitude calmed us down!
As for (2), the problem with starting new habits is the belief that there will be some overwhelming immediate result – and this just isn’t true. Additionally, the building of the habit needs to happen from a place of calmness initially. We can’t build habits to solve a problem ‘in the moment’, or at least I can’t. So I realized I had to practice gratitude when I was in a decent mood, or at least not in a bad mood. Once the habit is built from that attitude, THEN it can be used to benefit us during duress or stress. Hopefully that makes sense. It would be like expecting to see weight loss results after running our first mile. The benefits come later.
You have to trust the process. And a process that works for me is to take 2-3 minutes at least once a day, at a time when you are not feeling particularly stressed or distracted, to breathe deeply, appreciate your breath, and pick one thing you are grateful for in that moment.
Preview video here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=855244945200844
Original full episode post: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N5AX61W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1