March Grateful & A Guide To Starting Your Own Gratitude Project

"Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can."

-Dalai Lama XIV

The first part of this quote from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has guided my grateful project. Each morning for the past three months, I've woken up feeling fortunate to be alive and filled with purpose to express my gratitude throughout the day. This month, as I compile my graphic calendar for the month of March, I can't believe that I'm already and only a quarter of the way through my project. I say already because it amazes me how fast the time has gone and how habitual this project has become. I say only because I am humbled when I think of how much I have benefitted from this project in such a short amount of time, and can't help but anticipate what the future holds.

The end of this quote, paired with the thrill I feel from this project, inspires me to pay it forward by encouraging others to participate in their own gratitude project. To do so, I've come up with six steps that I believe will act as a guide. I hope you'll read them and consider starting a project of your own, for as I've experienced firsthand, the more you give gratitude, the more the universe will send good things your way. So, without further ado, I give you:

A Guide To Starting Your Own Gratitude Project

1.) Make a plan. Make a commitment.

While documenting gratitude through daily photographs works wonders for me, maybe you'd rather make a weekly phone call to tell someone you're grateful for them or write a few sentences in a journal three days a week. However you decide to express your gratitude, take the time to make a clear plan. Equally as important, take a moment to make a commitment to yourself and your project. You may also want to mark your calendar, ask a friend or partner to hold you accountable, or set a reminder on your phone to be sure to carry out your actions. A little outside help never hurts.

2.) Begin.

This step, though seemingly obvious, may just be the most difficult. No more "I'll start eating healthy tomorrow" or "I'll put money into the savings account next month" excuses. As soon as you finish your plan and make the commitment, start your project. And start right away! Let the gratitude begin.

3.) Be present. Be aware. Be open.

Once you've started your gratitude project, you'll probably notice that you don't feel gratitude only on the days or times your plan dictates. Instead, the feeling of gratitude will strike when the bus pulls up right as you get to the stop, when the earthy scent of fresh vegetables overwhelms you at the market, or as you're drying off with a clean, warm towel. Be aware of these moments. Be present in these moments. The more you acknowledge gratitude, the more the universe gives you things to be grateful for. Open yourself up to the possibilities.

4.) Stick with it.

I guarantee that, especially at the beginning of your project, there will be days you don't want to do it and moments you feel like you're forcing it. Do it anyways. Maybe you're feeling crabby (you are human after all). That's fine. Give yourself time to pout, and then move on and give some gratitude. You'll find that you're glad you did it, and it will probably lift your spirits as well.

Also important is to not give up once you start seeing and feeling results. Instead of stopping when the going gets good, keep pushing forward and let it get better.

5.) Share your gratitude.

One of the many rewarding aspects of my project is all the positive feedback I receive from sharing it. I can't imagine that any harm will come from connecting with others over gratitude, so give it a try and spread the gratitude. If your plan is to personally express your gratitude for others, well then you have the opportunity to share built right into your project. If your plan is to write in a gratitude journal, you could read it aloud to a friend or partner. Or if you're sitting next to a stranger on a park bench when you find yourself overcome with gratitude for the beautiful day you're enjoying, take a minute to connect with them and comment on how grateful you are for the wonderful weather. I suppose there's a chance they'll think you're crazy, but my guess is that they'll agree and smile along with you. You'll feel even more gratitude for having made them smile, and there's a chance you just spread gratitude to someone who really needs the reminder.

6.) Reflect

Once you've gotten into a rhythm, add a little reflection to the mix. I know you're already reflecting each time you give gratitude, but also take the time to look back on your project as a whole. I do this by compiling my calendar graphic at the end of each month. In doing so, I once again give gratitude for all the wonderful things that happened that month. And on days when I'm feeling down, I look back through my photos to remind myself just how many things I have to be grateful for. So, after you've made your gratitude phone call, take a minute to think about it, write about it, or just soak it up. If you're keeping a journal, flip back through the pages and re-read your entries. Giving gratitude is a process, and the more time you devote to your project, the more benefits you will receive.

Good luck, and keep giving!

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