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Practice & Grace: How to Begin a Gratitude Ritual

About eight years ago, I began my own self-directed study of positive psychology, even writing a daily blog called “The Positivity Quest” (and multiple other iterations over the years). It was a public commitment that kept me going and taught me what practices created the space for more positive thinking to happen in my brain. It was also a true daily effort – sometimes begrudging, sometimes truly inspired, and never predictable.

I have written more times than I can count about the practice of gratitude journaling, a ritual that reminds us of the power of using our own attention to see what is good. Even on days when you can’t see what is good about the world around you or the circumstances you find yourself in, this practice sees past this to what is good in your own intention. Lately, this ritual has presented again as the idea of a persistent optimism.

What a Gratitude Ritual Is and Isn’t

It is important to convey that this is not a Pollyanna practice about “looking away” from the multitude of inequities, injustices, and failures that are inescapable in our current reality. Reality won’t change because you are practicing seeing the good, but you will feel an impact in your own life. Persistent optimism means having radical faith in yourself.

For me lately, it feels like remembering a friendship I had with myself that had been lost among all the losses I have experienced in recent years. This remembering can be quite visceral, like an epiphany. Or a force raining in my head, or maybe emerging from my belly. It mostly feels like waking up to recognize just how many things continue to work on my behalf, because I believe they can.

Honestly, my positivity practice is the only reason Good Clean Love still exists. Remembering this now is a gift of grace.

How to Curate a Practice of Gratitude

Although I wish I could give you some specific instructions to find your way into this tender and blessed flow of goodness, the only thing that seems clear is that it emerges when we consistently practice looking for the good.

Keep in mind, there is no guarantee built into the practice. Anyone who works to cultivate positive habits will confirm this. Some days it is a slog. And you can’t maintain the practice merely because you are motivated to find grace. Grace will find you when you are disciplined enough to keep practicing, even (and especially) when it is hardest.

Here is the other thing: you can’t hang onto those moments of grace either. Practicing more doesn’t assure anything more than the way any repeated practice creates a groove in your brain to remind you that something else is possible. There is more to the moment than you can witness from your current vantage point. There is a groove of energy in the world that feels like a place you can fall back into. It is an odd kind of feeling of safety that recognizes all the dangers and accepts the hurt and pain so completely that it shelters you.

I don’t know how long this gratitude will embody me, so I feel compelled to try to offer it while it is in me. May it offer you a next step.