Growing up in an abusive family, I wore my victim story like a badge. I led conversations by telling people “how screwed up I was because of my father.” This story became the subtext of everything I ever shared about my childhood.
Until one day. I was having lunch in Los Angeles with my friend Paul, going over all the horrible things that had happened to me in my life. Suddenly, Paul said to me, “Laura, how long are you going to tell that story and be a victim?”
I was shocked. I responded, “You don’t understand what hell I’ve been through!”
“I understand,” he said. “I just want to know how long you’re going to tell that old tired story.”
I was still incensed, and yet I knew on some level he was onto something.
It was in that moment that I realized I’d been going through my life thinking I was earning purple hearts for having the worst childhood story. The truth was that my story was holding me back from healing. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I started being grateful for what I did have.
Gratitude is now at the top of my to-do list every day. When you experience gratefulness for a moment, it will come back to you three-fold in the next.
Here are five simple ways to regularly incorporate gratitude into your life.
1. Keep a Daily Gratitude List
Write down at least five things you’re grateful for each day. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful for this cup of coffee” or as profound as “I’m grateful for this beautiful life.” Practice acknowledging good things each day, and soon you’ll find them everywhere. And I encourage people to add new things to their list every day, because we all have thousands of things we can be grateful. Expand your mind and feel the gratitude come streaming in.
2. Play B.D.G. (Brag, Desire, Gratitude)
Get an email list going with some friends or family and take turns “replying all” with one brag, one desire, and one gratitude. Publicly recognizing an accomplishment or positive quality, expressing a future hope, and giving thanks for what you already have will connect you to the good in your life—past, present, and future. Plus, it will bring you closer to your loved ones and remind you of the wonderful reasons you care for them.
3. Recite a Daily Affirmation
We all have the ability to create a happy future, and affirmations are a powerful tool in attracting the positive experiences we want. Write an affirmation using positive statements in the present tense about something you want in your life. Recite it daily. Preferably in front of a mirror!
4. Write a Letter of Thanks (the old fashion way)
You could write a letter to a parent, co-worker, friend, child, spouse, or even to yourself. Let them know how much they mean to you and how you appreciate their love and support. It is so rare to receive snail mail these days, so a hand-written note is golden. Gratitude begets more gratitude—imagine how thankful the recipient will be and how good you will feel doing it!
5. Find Forgiveness in Gratitude
It is especially hard to feel appreciation for those who have hurt us, and, yet, harboring anger only prolongs our own suffering and strengthens our connection to a painful past. Work toward forgiving those individuals by finding a way to thank them. For example, I now have only gratitude for my abusive father. Although he caused my siblings and me much physical and emotional pain, it was this experience that helps me connect to and help other abuse victims.
Believe me, when you take some time to practice it, gratitude fits like a glove and looks amazing on.
How has practicing gratitude created more joy and less drama in your life?
Weight Release & Body Image Coach, Laura Fenamore, is on a mission to guide women around the world to love what they see in the mirror—one pinky at a time—so they can unlock the secrets to a healthy weight and start loving their lives as soon as possible. Having overcome her own battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released over one hundred pounds twenty-four years ago, beginning her on a journey to guide other women to live more joyous, balanced lives. Laura believes that self-love and self-care is where the transformation begins. Learn more about Laura at OnePinky.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.