How Saying Gratitude in Bed Every Morning Completely Changed My Mindset

published Feb 5, 2022
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I used to start my mornings something like this: The moment I opened my eyes, my never-ending to-do list came to mind. “Ugh, so much to do today,” I would groan before I got out of bed. I dreaded the tasks even before I got started, which naturally made it harder to get started at all. 

This went on for quite a few months. I used to call it “starting my day backwards” as I woke up worrying about catching up on previous days’ tasks, making it harder to meet today’s deadlines and thus continuing the cycle. I knew this approach wasn’t helping, so when I came across a personal essay where the author swore by an early-morning gratitude practice, I decided to give it a shot. I knew being grateful for things wouldn’t magically solve my problems, but if it meant I could have calmer, more upbeat mornings, I was willing to spend a few minutes on it daily.

I kept it very simple. No grandiose journals and colored pens. No custom books and fancy pages. Just me and a sense of gratitude. Every morning, without fail. I started with a one-minute gratitude practice which consisted of nothing but me expressing gratitude for all the things I value. Some days I said it out loud immediately after waking up; on others I said it in my head. But I said it every day. 

As expected, it didn’t automatically help me get things done faster, but it put me in a better mood first thing in the morning. Now, instead of dreading my tasks, I felt a tinge of excitement. Of course, none of this happened overnight — in the first few weeks of my practice, I didn’t notice any massive changes, but I at least no longer started my days in a state of anxiety. This worked in my favor, as numerous studies show that how you start your mornings plays a huge role in how you feel throughout the day. 

Eventually, I was looking for things to be grateful for because I knew I needed something to be thankful for the next morning. I became more aware of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Experts would say I became more receptive to the good things happening around me. “It’s like seeing more yellow cars when you want a yellow car, or finding more purple jackets when you’ve been thinking about one,” says empowerment coach Taz Thornton. “Your brain notices more things to be grateful for — things that were already there, but you hadn’t clocked before.”

The effects of this practice spilled over into different areas of my life. I started reframing work struggles as lessons to learn. I went from thinking “Oh, I have five things due today; how will I ever get it done?” to “I’m glad I have five assignments to work on today. It feels good to know editors trust me with these stories and I’m excited to see how I can challenge myself to give my best.”

It also made me more mindful of how I approached relationships. Now when I had a fight with someone and woke up with a heavy heart, I reframed the problem during my one-minute gratitude practice. I looked at the struggles as opportunities to talk through issues, learn to express needs, and potentially reevaluate if it’s the right relationship for me. 

“Practicing gratitude changes your brain circuitry and perspective on life,” says Hilda Kalap, an emotional freedom techniques (EFT) practitioner and mindfulness teacher. “Now you’re no longer the victim pointing the finger of blame at someone as if things happen to us and that we have no control over them.”

Now, I could choose to start my day focusing on things that were going well. I could expend more time and energy on things that made me happy and create more space in my life for little moments of joy. It didn’t shorten my to-do list, but the positive mindset built from this practice made it seem more manageable. 

While this is a powerful practice with numerous long-term benefits, it’s also important to note that being grateful for things does not mean ignoring problems or thankful-ing your way into staying in bad situations. If you’re in a genuinely harmful situation, it would make more sense to acknowledge what’s happening and work to get the help you need. 

If practicing gratitude seems overwhelming and woo-woo, start super small, like I did. One minute is more than enough to feel the benefits when you’re just getting started. Eventually, you can increase the duration to whatever feels right. It won’t make your problems go away, but it’ll create space for joy and appreciation even on the bad days.