A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude

It’s a busy time in the ThreeYear household. School (which is work, for me) has started. We’re on tight schedules, up early, and racing to get ready for our days in the mornings.

In the afternoons, we have swimming, soccer, and homework. My older son has lots of homework this year and a large part of my afternoons are spent managing that (i.e., making sure he’s actually doing it).

Practicing Gratitude--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Weekends feel impossibly brief, especially since I’m taking a class on Saturday mornings and am gone from 8am-1pm.

It is a transition time, a time when our lives have changed radically from one season to the next. We have to give ourselves time to figure out these new rhythms in our days. I have to remind myself to prioritize sleep over almost everything (I’m so tired that I’m usually ready for sleep by about 8:30, but then again I do get up at 5am).

So what is a habit that can possibly support me this month? Picking going to bed early wouldn’t be super helpful, because I go to bed as soon as I can every night. Luckily, I’ve already developed the habit of keeping my phone and Ipad in another room, so I’m not tempted to scroll through them right before bed. That’s helped me tremendously, because I’m almost never tempted to stay up late (unless I’m reading a really good library book). 

Practicing Gratitude

With all of the hustle and bustle of this season of school and work starting, it’s easy for me to get frazzled and lose perspective. I often want to get way more done than I’m humanly capable of, and when the day doesn’t flow according to plan, I can get annoyed.

So I think what will help me the most is to stop for a few minutes each day and write down three things I’m grateful for.

I just bought a new journal, and I love opening up the leather cover and writing in its crisp new, lined pages. The act of sitting and thinking of what I’m grateful for is probably just the medicine I need for September and October.

It will not only train my mind to focus on the good, rather than what’s wrong, with my life, but it will also slow me down for a bit each day, so that I can take the time to savor the beautiful fall weather, my family, and friends.

I’ve written before about gratitude, and how regularly practicing it has changed our lives.

Why Gratitude?

Sheryl Sandburg, the eponymous COO of Facebook, suddenly lost her husband several years ago. Gratitude became the way out of her all-encompassing grief.

Every night, before she goes to bed, she now lists three things she is grateful for. “People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year’s resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night. This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful. Try it.”

How to Change a Habit

Habits have helped me be more productive, happier, and less frustrated over the years, since I don’t have to think about those every day behaviors that I’ve put on auto-pilot: hanging up my keys on the key rack as I come in the door, writing first thing after I wake up, putting my desk supplies back after I finish using them.

Habits have a predictable cycle–cue, behavior, and reward, according to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. We experience a cue (alarm goes off), engage in a behavior (walk into the den where my desk is), and experience the expected reward (a rush of pleasure as I know I’m starting my day the way I want).

Experts say the way to change habits is to keep two parts of the cycle the same–the cue and the reward–and change the behavior. Once you’ve done that, then you’ve effectively changed the habit.

Once school is out, and we’ve walked in the door and the kids have unpacked their backpacks, I’ll make them a snack then grab my journal to write down what I’m grateful for. This will be a good time of day to take a few moments, both because I’ll be relieved to have finished the school day, and it’ll start Round Two on a positive note.

Over the years, I’ve written various things I’m grateful for, and it’s always so nice to go back and read them. The more specific they are, the better:

“I’m grateful that my [now ten-year-old] son is sleeping soundly in his crib.”

“I’m so grateful that even though my washer is broken, I have money in the repair envelope to fix it.” 

“I’m so grateful our family is healthy and we’re going to visit them in Chile next month.” 

This month, I’ll add a few more entries in my journal, and take time to notice the plethora of good things that permeate our lives.

Here’s to a grateful September. What are you grateful for lately? 






Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

4 thoughts on “A Year of Good Habits: Practicing Gratitude”

    1. Hi Francesca! Thanks so much for the comment. Yes, I agree. It’s when I practice gratitude that I find myself in a better mood. It’s really selfish, in a lot of ways! Haha! 🙂

  1. I’m grateful for the privilege of being in a position where I can afford to pursue the things I’m passionate about and love! This is a great idea. So much to be grateful for that we don’t take the time to recognize and appreciate. Good luck with the school year!

    1. Oh I love that… “I can afford to pursue the things I’m passionate about and love!” I envy this a little bit, because we’re working toward it, but we’re not there quite yet. 🙂

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