Many anoint the month of November as a time to focus on gratitude, as we approach the national holiday of Thanksgiving and focus on end-of-year giving.
But perhaps gratitude is more impactful and more pervasive, if we make it a daily practice, according to Andrew Chamberlin, MA, LPC, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Cleary University.
“Gratitude has to be relatively routine because I don’t think we grow in gratitude without something very intentional,” Chamberlin says.
In one of Chamberlin’s Cleary classes, TCM 1000, he teaches self-awareness, which he says helps to build the eight attributes of The Cleary Mind™.
One of those attributes, leadership, comes out of a practice of gratitude and self-awareness, Chamberlin asserts. “A healthy leader practices a return to these moments that we can be thankful for because gratitude is also an act of humility,” he says. “Healthy leadership includes humility, letting ourselves be in awe and in wonder, and to realize that we don’t have everything figured out.”
Chamberlin recalls something he learned from Dan Allender, an inspiring professor from his days at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He taught “that it’s also a healthy practice to return to 3, 4, 5 things that have happened in our lives that we literally could have never anticipated, transformative things. What distinguishes between a quick itinerary of gratitude and an actual pondering of life moments that have changed us,” Chamberlin notes.
One of the goals at Cleary University, says Chamberlin, is to “train leaders.” A practice of gratitude has a prominent place in such a business school, he continues.
“It is not only healthy for us in our humanity but certainly as we lead others, cultivating gratitude is such a healthy practice,” Chamberlin notes.
Gratitude, he says, is also “an act of curiosity.”
“It’s an act of giving of ourselves, too, and it makes me think of many things that are healthy in being human and in our connection with other people. At Cleary, we are training people to be in the context of other people as they become leaders, and to be healthy in that sense within themselves.”
How can you cultivate gratitude, especially in trying times?
Perhaps begin with a journaling practice, taking time each day to jot down thoughts and notice moments that you may be grateful for.
“When we sit down with literally just a pen and paper, the neurobiology shows us that even if we sit there for a minute, the prefrontal cortex starts to light up,” Chamberlin says. “Even without doing anything yet, in the posture of it, that’s how powerful it is.”
Make time for reflection. “There’s something different between writing a quick list and sitting with two or three things and even sharing it with someone,” Chamberlin says. “We’re in times where a lot of people don’t have a ton of reflective time.”
Find things to be grateful for throughout the day. And, at the end of each day, review what unfolded in the earlier hours and recognize the good moments as much as possible.
Taking stock of each day is “a healthy practice,” Chamberlin says.
“Highlighting the importance of making it a practice, making it very intentional, and to try to ponder in a whole different way the things that bring us a sense of joy, a sense of hope. Those are big words… and they’re important right now.”