What Does It Really Mean to Practice Gratitude? Ask Alex Elle

1 week ago 17
google news Flipboard

Despite its omnipresence on Instagram graphics and Etsy items, the plea to “practice gratitude” often just seems like a platitude. But there’s a real benefit to reflecting on what’s going well: one study found that writing gratitude letters for three weeks straight improved the mental health of the participants. Author Alex Elle has focused her writing on gratitude, imparting positive affirmations through her daily gratitude newsletter, Gratitude Daily, and in her book After the Rain.

Even Elle admits that, at times, it’s been hard to maintain gratitude over this pandemic year. “I was putting myself last because I had my family and so many other things to worry about. I was not practicing what I preached online and, in turn, my mental health suffered,” she says. “I needed to find a practice that would allow me to come back to center and be present with what’s in front of me right now.” Keeping a gratitude journal helped her do that.

Now, Elle is hoping to make the daily practice easier for others by partnering up with Ritual, a new wellbeing platform that just launched with $2.5 million of seed funding. She’s created a year-long gratitude series, out June 13, that is made up of 15-minute episodes that incorporate writing prompts, meditations, and words of the week to inspire reflection. For example, Elle says, “One week we will be focusing on the word ‘struggle.’ I want people to dive deep into how our struggles help us to find gratitude.”

“I want people to come as they are,” she says of her hopes for those tuning into the gratitude meditations. “You don’t have to be a writer to have this practice. All you have to do is be open to listening and getting to know yourself. My main piece of advice is to allow yourself to be flawed in the practice, and don’t take yourself too seriously, because there’s no right or wrong way to show up.” Here, in addition to tuning into the Ritual series, Elle shares with Vogue a few ways we can all incorporate a little bit of gratitude in our lives in order to achieve a more positive mindset.

Photo: Courtesy of RitualJournal

“This is the first thing I suggest to those who want to get into a gratitude practice. You can start by making a list of the things you’re grateful for. You can even see if your family wants to join in and see what happens,” she says, adding that you can have a big list hanging on your wall in your home as a way of including those you live with, or keep it private.

Practice mindful breathing

“I’ve really gotten into breathwork,” says Elle, who is also going through a breathwork teacher training. “It’s just another reminder that, when we have nothing, we always have our breath. That was a tool for me during this time where everything was closed down. I’ve realized self-care and gratitude, for me, are all about getting back to the basics. Maybe it’s going for a run or sitting outside. Or maybe it’s just setting a timer on your phone everyday for five minutes to just breathe.”

Enjoy your skin-care routine mindfully

“I now jokingly call myself an esthetician because over the past year I’ve become a skin-care guru. Like, I’m glowing over here because of my skin-care practice,” she says with a laugh. “And I know this sounds funny, but it’s how I’ve found joy in this time. Especially as a mother of three, sometimes I wouldn’t have time to even do it. So washing my face, and really taking my time has been important to me and finding gratitude in the moments I get to do it, especially after a year where we couldn’t do a lot of things to really pamper ourselves.”

Paint

“I picked up painting in the pandemic. I am no painter, but I love it. It’s been a way for me to get closer to my inner child and to just be thankful for not having any rules, especially as someone who grew up with a lot of rules and a lot of fear-based thinking. Being able to paint and not know what I’m doing, it’s like giving myself permission to play—and there’s a lot of gratitude in that for me."

Find gratitude in practices you already enjoy

“I tried to get my oldest daughter to journal and she recently told me that she doesn’t like journaling or writing. She likes drawing. And I was like okay, that’s fine! It’s important to give yourself the autonomy and space to say what works and what doesn’t for you. Not everyone is going to be on the same pathway as us in life and that’s okay. Gratitude practices are diverse and ever-changing. At the end of the day, practice creates a ritual in our life. No matter what it is we’re doing. And I think now more than ever, people are looking for routine, especially as the world starts to open back up again. It’s important to continue doing things for yourself, even amidst the new normal.”

  1. Homepage
  2. Lifestyle