30 days of gratitude – how my brain was rewired

Last month I committed to practice 30 days of gratitude. I had set the intention to write four pages everyday about all that I was grateful for, and also to post one image on Instagram to share my gratitude. Now that the 30 days have passed I really feel the impact of the practice, and I thought I’d share that with you. 

The practice and how it evolved

The first ten days of June I wrote four pages daily about what I felt grateful for. I would often end up weaving pieces of journaling in between the gratitude. I spent around 20-30 minutes writing, and I really felt the gratitude in my whole body. It felt good, useful and sometimes cathartic.
 
Then I caught the flu and writing seemed heavy and difficult, so I started saying aloud all the things I was grateful for. By saying it aloud I still got to feel the sensation of gratitude in my body, and the power of voicing it aloud was also really helpful in terms of directing my attention. 

Posting on Instagram helped me keep the practice all the way through the month. Some days towards the end I felt busy, and I didn’t prioritize doing the practice in the morning, as I had intended. But the fact that I had committed to post on Instagram really helped me to be consistent. Everyday I would select an image and tap into something I felt truly grateful for. Even if I didn’t journal or spend a long time saying it aloud, I would still spend a good amount of time thinking about what I felt grateful for, seeing it, and selecting an image. And thereby I still ended up spending time feeling the gratitude in my body.

Feeling the gratitude really made the difference for me. I have previously kept a practice where I wrote three things I was grateful for every evening, but somehow this was too fast and easy for me. I didn't get to really feel it. And it didn’t ripple into other parts of my life as much as this practice did… 

It became a habit

As time passed I noticed myself feeling grateful many random times throughout the day. Automatically. I would see a beautiful scenery and immediately my brain would think how grateful I was for the scenery. When eating I would look at the food and be grateful that I had food. And I especially noticed gratitude in relation to other people. 

I felt more love and letting go became easier

It wasn’t a coincidence that I chose to practice gratitude in June. The same month I made the decision I was going to leave Thailand, which had been my main home for the last five years, and embark on a new journey back to Europe: first to Berlin and later onwards to Spain. As much as the new journey excited me, I was about to say goodbye to my dear and close friends that I had shared so much with the last years. It’s not a secret that I've never been very good at saying goodbye. But somehow I noticed that my gratitude practice rippled into this part of my life. Yes I knew I would miss my friends. However I noticed that instead of fixating on the feelings of loss and sadness, I mostly felt immense love for my friends and gratitude for the connections I had. I believe this was because my brain had become wired to tap into gratitude naturally. (Disclaimer: I’m no scientist, and I can’t prove this with hard data, I can only share from experience, and I really felt a change.)

Now that the 30 days have passed, I’m not going to post daily on Instagram anymore, but I still intend to keep a daily gratitude practice. It will be in a less formalized and more integrated way. The main point will be to make sure to feel gratitude daily.

I’d love to hear about your experience if you’ve practiced gratitude. How was it for you? Let me know in the comments below. 

Day 1: I'm grateful for the lush nature that surrounds me during rainy season in northern Thailand. 

Day 1: I'm grateful for the lush nature that surrounds me during rainy season in northern Thailand. 

Day 2: I'm grateful for endings that are really just new beginnings. Life is ever changing. What are you grateful for? 

Day 2: I'm grateful for endings that are really just new beginnings. Life is ever changing. What are you grateful for? 

Day 3: I’m grateful for the practice. Today I woke up after a night with upsetting dreams. I still felt it in my body. I went to sit with my coffee and slowly wrote the four pages on gratitude. It helped me clear myself, not that I don’t allow the emotions to be there, I actually write about them as well and try to tap into what they help me appreciate. So far I’m impressed with how impactful the daily gratitude practice is…and then I went on a hike!

Day 3: I’m grateful for the practice. Today I woke up after a night with upsetting dreams. I still felt it in my body. I went to sit with my coffee and slowly wrote the four pages on gratitude. It helped me clear myself, not that I don’t allow the emotions to be there, I actually write about them as well and try to tap into what they help me appreciate. So far I’m impressed with how impactful the daily gratitude practice is…and then I went on a hike!

Day 4: I'm grateful for mango season - happy Sunday! 

Day 4: I'm grateful for mango season - happy Sunday! 

Day 5: I'm grateful for mornings. Today I woke up full of energy. Light and ready to live, do and experience. It's not always like that. Some days I feel heavy and just want to stay in bed. It's never the same. How do you feel? 

Day 5: I'm grateful for mornings. Today I woke up full of energy. Light and ready to live, do and experience. It's not always like that. Some days I feel heavy and just want to stay in bed. It's never the same. How do you feel? 

Day 6: I'm grateful for trees. For their beauty and the peace they bring me. Where do you find peace? 

Day 6: I'm grateful for trees. For their beauty and the peace they bring me. Where do you find peace? 

Day 7: I'm grateful for unknown roads and adventures in life. 

Day 7: I'm grateful for unknown roads and adventures in life. 

Day 8: I'm grateful for all the shining stars - the lovely people - I meet in life.

Day 8: I'm grateful for all the shining stars - the lovely people - I meet in life.

Day 9: I'm grateful for art. Homemade and handmade, gifted and bought. Experienced and created.

Day 9: I'm grateful for art. Homemade and handmade, gifted and bought. Experienced and created.

Day 10: I'm grateful for rest and hot beverages. Today is a feeling under the weather and binge watching tv-series kind of day...

Day 10: I'm grateful for rest and hot beverages. Today is a feeling under the weather and binge watching tv-series kind of day...

Day 11: I'm grateful for sleep ✨ this weekend has been all about rest for me, how has yours been? 

Day 11: I'm grateful for sleep ✨ this weekend has been all about rest for me, how has yours been? 

Day 12: I'm grateful for all the teachers who've guided me and who share their wisdom. Today was the first day of Intro to Somatic Movement with wonderful Tara Eden

Day 12: I'm grateful for all the teachers who've guided me and who share their wisdom. Today was the first day of Intro to Somatic Movement with wonderful Tara Eden

Day 13: I'm grateful for tears, when you really feel shitty, a good cry is the best relief.

Day 13: I'm grateful for tears, when you really feel shitty, a good cry is the best relief.

Day 14: I'm grateful for learning and being a student. Day three of "Learning to Listen" including Feldenkrais and somatic movement left me feeling kind of high ✨  What sparks your curiosity and motivates you to dive deep into learning? 

Day 14: I'm grateful for learning and being a student. Day three of "Learning to Listen" including Feldenkrais and somatic movement left me feeling kind of high ✨  What sparks your curiosity and motivates you to dive deep into learning? 

Day 15: I'm grateful for silent mornings; ideally I wouldn't have any conversation until after practice + breakfast. How do you prefer your mornings?

Day 15: I'm grateful for silent mornings; ideally I wouldn't have any conversation until after practice + breakfast. How do you prefer your mornings?

Day 16: I'm grateful for all the amazing women in my life ❤️  mom, sister, friends, dancers, teachers & fellow practitioners.

Day 16: I'm grateful for all the amazing women in my life ❤️  mom, sister, friends, dancers, teachers & fellow practitioners.

Day 17: I'm grateful for dreams and visions... what do you dream about? 

Day 17: I'm grateful for dreams and visions... what do you dream about? 

Day 18: I'm grateful for life. #birthdaygirl

Day 18: I'm grateful for life. #birthdaygirl

Day 19: I'm grateful for kindness. Like when a young Thai couple offered to give us a ride back from the mountains, just like that.

Day 19: I'm grateful for kindness. Like when a young Thai couple offered to give us a ride back from the mountains, just like that.

Day 20: I'm grateful for colors! 

Day 20: I'm grateful for colors! 

Day 21: I'm grateful for random encounters and shared moments. This happened as I was teaching a workshop in mindful photography earlier today. 

Day 21: I'm grateful for random encounters and shared moments. This happened as I was teaching a workshop in mindful photography earlier today. 

Day 22: I'm grateful for Thailand: the place that's been home the last years. For the generosity, wisdom and kindness I've met here.

Day 22: I'm grateful for Thailand: the place that's been home the last years. For the generosity, wisdom and kindness I've met here.

Day 23: I'm grateful for this majestic tree that I went to see today.

Day 23: I'm grateful for this majestic tree that I went to see today.

Day 24: I'm so grateful for friends. Oh it's the people I'll miss the most when I leave Chiang Mai next week... 

Day 24: I'm so grateful for friends. Oh it's the people I'll miss the most when I leave Chiang Mai next week... 

Day 25: I'm grateful for books - today this chapter about owning the unknown from Jonathan Fields' "How to Live a Good Life" really resonated.

Day 25: I'm grateful for books - today this chapter about owning the unknown from Jonathan Fields' "How to Live a Good Life" really resonated.

Day 26: I'm grateful for the freedom I have to live my life the way it makes me happy.

Day 26: I'm grateful for the freedom I have to live my life the way it makes me happy.

Day 27: I'm grateful for these wheels that have taken me on so many adventures here in northern Thailand... bittersweet to let her go today.

Day 27: I'm grateful for these wheels that have taken me on so many adventures here in northern Thailand... bittersweet to let her go today.

Day 28: I'm grateful for airplanes! Here traveling from Cologne to Berlin.

Day 28: I'm grateful for airplanes! Here traveling from Cologne to Berlin.

Day 29: I'm grateful for blankets, a warm home and coziness on a rainy day.

Day 29: I'm grateful for blankets, a warm home and coziness on a rainy day.

Day 30: I'm grateful for this journey of life. All the gifts it brings. Surprises. Twists. Turns. The adventure I constantly explore and that I could only really start enjoying once I gave up the false notion that there ever is a destination to reach. 

Day 30: I'm grateful for this journey of life. All the gifts it brings. Surprises. Twists. Turns. The adventure I constantly explore and that I could only really start enjoying once I gave up the false notion that there ever is a destination to reach.