In this episode of the Feel Good Effect – writer, Gina Hamadey, is helping us turn the idea of gratitude into an actual everyday habit.
Listen to the episode or read the article to learn some tactical ways you can implement gratitude in your own life!
create an active gratitude habit with these 4 simple strategies with gina hamadey
Is gratitude something we feel or something we do? Gina Hamadey is taking us behind-the-scenes of her gratitude project (and now book) about the year she wrote 365 thank you notes. If gratitude feels like something on your self-care to-do list, be sure to listen to the end. Gina’s 4 simple strategies will help you make it happen.
“Beyond just feeling something and thinking something – how do you do it?”
meet guest & author: gina hamadey
Even as a child, Gina was drawn toward this idea of being grateful but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it. Her book, I Want to Thank You, is about the year she wrote 365 thank you and gratitude notes.
This idea originated from a peaceful hour she had on a commute one January, which caused her to think about how treasured hours are and how she wasn’t taking advantage of them. At the same time, she had a stack of thank you notes she was writing to fundraiser donors for her job that she was working on during this commute.
She never was a big thank you note writer, but she found that writing these notes felt undeniably great. Her breathing slowed and her blood pressure seemed to slow down. It was as if a veil had lifted. This simple task put her in a peaceful, focused mood that carried throughout her day. She finished writing her stack of 31 thank you notes on January 31, and it felt like the whole year came to her in one neat concept – where she had written a thank you note for every day so far and she wanted to keep it up.
a year of thank you notes
Gina was a magazine editor for most of her career and her mind was always thinking in terms of an editorial calendar. She knew she needed some structure to succeed, which is how she came up with her “thank you year”.
Every month had a different topic. The first step was brainstorming what topics to focus on throughout the year. As she did that, she brainstormed a list of people and thought about what she would write to those people about. At the top of every month, she looked at the topic she had come up with and flushed out what each day would look like.
gratitude and its effect on happiness
Gina knew that gratitude was good for you, that gratitude journals were a thing and that there was some science behind it. Not only does it bring peaceful, gratitude, warm feelings, there are all kinds of benefits – like strengthening existing and reconnecting old relationships.
At the end of her year of thank you notes, Gina started to think about the possibility of putting this method into a book. It had gone beyond just writing 365 thank you notes. It felt like a year of gifts. That was when she started looking into the research and interviewing gratitude researchers and really becoming more of a student of gratitude.
Looking around in daily life, there are plenty of instances when someone does a nice favor and you might think, “how nice of them”. By actually looking for those instances and sitting down later to write a note, can extend that feeling. For Gina, this practice helped her not only reflect on past gratitude but helped her start to notice gratitude in real-time. Additionally, while she was searching for it in her neighborhood and world, she started to notice it more and more in her own home, little things her family did for one another.
strengthening and reconnecting relationships
Gina adapted her monthly theme rule to accommodate space for expressing gratitude to friends & family – people who went out of their way for her or her family in some way.
Gina ended up writing eight notes to her mother-in-law, which was so incredibly powerful for both of them. While Gina was noticing just how much her mother-in-law did for her and her family, her mother-in-law was also feeling so seen and appreciated. The gratitude notes were reparative of any effects stress had on their relationship.
After some time, acknowledging gratitude in a relationship can easily become forgotten. Then, the only thing the other person hears from you is when you are not expressing gratitude or appreciation. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or that a relationship doesn’t have bad days, but these types of practices can help smooth out any rough edges and restore a feeling of balance.
“It’s hard to see the big picture if you’re focusing on the little things”.
changing how we communicate with each other
Gina chose to dedicate the last month of her thank you year practice to her husband – writing him a note every day.
They love each other and tell one another that everyday, but all of a sudden it became “I love you because…” or “I love that you do this…”. It helped her shift from a mindset of primarily focusing on everything she was doing and keeping track of, to also noticing all of the things he was doing.
It’s important to note that gratitude doesn’t mean that there’s no conflict. Or that you should just put a smile on & be grateful for what you have. In fact, right in the middle of this gratitude month, Gina and her husband got in one of their biggest fights. The month long practice, though, changed the way they speak to each other (to this day). They learned that it’s a daily practice, not something that you can say once and it lasts forever. When they both offer gratitude for one another, everything is just better.
After the year-long experiment was over, Gina reflected and felt like she trained herself to hold onto a grateful thought, stick with it a little longer than she had before, and make an active effort to try to share that grateful thought with someone.
For a time, she felt like the notes were a better option to a gratitude journal, which doesn’t really get shared with others. But, Gina started keeping a journal during the pandemic as a coping mechanism, and realized that she was actually in practice keeping a gratitude journal.
“When you experience a fleeting moment of happiness, hold onto it and the person or people responsible”
4 simple strategies to try this week
1 | Make a dedicated thank you note folder.
Gina bought a pretty, leather folder from Poketo that has pockets and a pen holder – a perfect little thank you note kit. None of this has to be beautiful or design-y though.
In fact, Gina used a bulk pack of colored notecards from Target for her year of 365 thank you notes. But having this beautiful folder that she keeps close by with everything she needs, helps her swap out mindless scrolling on her phone with a quick gratitude letter.
2 | Start Thankful Thursday.
Over the course of writing I Want to Thank You, Gina visited a high-school library where the librarian had read her book and started ‘Thankful Thursday’. On Thursdays, they put out notes and prompts to write a gratitude note, which the library staff would deliver. It created a culture of gratitude.
Inspired by that librarian’s practice, Gina now tries to write a few thank you notes on Thursdays, using lunchtime as a cue for that habit.
3 | Write notes as a weekend project
Gina and Robyn both like to set their kids up to write thank you notes as a project on weekends. Gina wrote a chapter about gratitude with kids in her book where she interviewed Kristen Welch, the author of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.
The key connection kids can make is that there are people behind the stuff we love – someone made it. That connection develops from talking about it and doing practices like this. Gina’s oldest son pulled out some of his favorite books and wrote to those authors, many of whom wrote back, and it was really wonderful to see this shift in her son.
4 | Express gratitude any way you like.
Express your gratitude verbally, by text, or in a card. You can start small and simple.
Remember, there is no one right way to do this. Don’t let perfectionism stand in the way of action.
what does it really mean to be healthy?
“To be flexible and to care… I feel grateful for my own flexibility and for caring enough to figure it out”.
Gina Hamadey is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Food & Wine, Rachael Ray Every Day, Women’s Health, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two young sons.
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch
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