In this post, I explain how making a daily list of things I’m thankful for has given me a welcome infusion of patience about my financial goals. I encourage everyone to try it.
The winter holidays are coming! You guys, I get so excited about the cooking, the baking, and most of all, the time I’ll get to spend with my family. I can’t wait! Except this is a post about patience, so I guess I’ll have to. Ugh! Come now, holidays!
Tis the Season for Gratitude
In November, many personal finance bloggers will offer great advice about how to cut out some of the costs of hosting parties and entertaining families. There will also be many blog posts about how to stop sabotaging your finances with your hyper-consumerist holiday spending.
Today I want to talk about a different holiday theme: being thankful. This post is about how purposefully practicing daily gratitude has given me the ability to be more patient about my financial goals. And if you’ve spent much time on this blog, you know that patience isn’t really a personal virtue for me.
Gratitude as a Practice
So let’s stop dallying and get to the story of how I started practicing gratitude. Because yes, it’s something I’ve started practicing. I spend time on it. On purpose. The majority of us are not natural wellsprings of gratitude. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful. We just need to be deliberate and purposeful about it. Here’s how I got started.
Living in a big sprawling urbanscape right now, I have a fairly long commute to and from work everyday. It’s not ideal, but Mr. Frugal PhD and I have been making the best of it. We carpool together (we share a single used car), and we use the time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks about the myriad ways we can improve our financial practices, and even the overall quality of our lives.
One of the audiobooks we listened to recently is called You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. It’s a great title for a book, and if you’re reading a blog about improving your financial life, then it’s totally true of you, badass reader. One of the things author Jen Sincero suggests in her book is that we take some time each day to write down what we’re grateful for. The book actually suggests a handful of new practices to try out daily, but this particular suggestion stuck for me.
7 Benefits of Gratitude
In part this appealed to me because we have substantial research-based evidence to suggest that practicing gratitude packs a punch of potential benefits. Gratitude is a big theme in the research on happiness. So what are the benefits? Two years ago, Forbes published an article outlining seven potential benefits of gratitude:
1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
2. Gratitude improves physical health.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
5. Grateful people sleep better.
6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
7. Gratitude increases mental strength.
My Daily Practice
I guess seven is the lucky number for gratitude, because it’s also the number of things I decided to write down in my gratitude notebook each day. In the mornings, I write down seven things that I’m grateful for, each on just one line of my notebook. It’s a super short exercise and takes me just 2 minutes. Since each thing I’m grateful for has to fit on one line, this isn’t a long reflective practice like keeping a journal. I just jot down what I feel grateful for on that particular morning, and I get on with my day.
An 8th Benefit — Patience
After doing my daily gratitude exercise for a few weeks, I discovered a personal eighth benefit to practicing gratitude.
8. Gratitude increases patience.
A recurring theme in my notes about what I’m grateful for is the ability to make steady, consistent progress on my financial goals. Sure, I still feel impatient about getting to the destination. I would love to have all of my student loans paid off right now today. I would love to have an investment portfolio that isn’t suffering from the years I got slowed down in grad school. And I would love to have a healthy downpayment for a house ready to go immediately for when I move for my next job.
But my gratitude exercise made me realize I am making progress on those goals, and I’m grateful that I’m able to do it.
Here are a few examples of things I’m grateful for:
- The ability to set goals.
- Milestones to look forward to.
- The ability to live my own path.
- My income.
- Having things to look forward to.
- Having control over my life.
- Another month’s progress on finance goals.
- The ability to invest.
- Paying off a loan early.
- My future home.
- Financial literacy.
- The ability to grow my net worth.
Practicing gratitude on a daily basis has helped me to be more patient about the slow pace of financial goals. And for me that’s a big deal because patience is hard.
So what benefits to practicing gratitude have you found? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.