4 Easy Ways to Implement Mindfulness and Gratitude

As nurses, we often sacrifice spending time with our families due to work requirements. I was snuggling babies in my NICU on last Thanksgiving, away from my family. Yet, I find myself personally grateful that I’m able to work and spend the holiday with my NICU family. Gratitude is essentially another word for feeling thankful, and mindfulness is the mind’s awareness of being fully present. Below are a few ways to implement practices into your daily routine that leave you feeling more at ease and hopefully slow life down a bit.


1. Keep a gratitude journal. Practicing gratitude through keeping a journal is an amazing way to apply gratitude to your daily life. On our toughest days as nurses, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of the things we’re grateful for. Writing in your journal doesn’t have to be an everyday occurrence. A gratitude journal is beneficial even if you write in it two to three times each week. Journaling has been shown to reduce stress levels, allow you to feel calmer and boost your mood!

There are 100s of templates online if you’re unsure how to start. Find one that speaks to you. Gratitude journaling can consist of naming someone you’re grateful for that day, a special meal you shared with others, a deep and uplifting conversation you had with a friend, something that made you smile, something in nature that you found beautiful, etc. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task—starting with a short list allows you to keep up with journaling. Listing three things you’re grateful for that day is enough to lift your spirits.


2. Pay it forward. When you actively notice what you’re grateful for, it creates a domino effect. You’ll want to share these good feelings with others. Happiness and gratitude are truly contagious. Use the happy energy you conjure through gratitude to pay it forward. Volunteering for a local organization, donating to a nearby food bank or doing small daily acts of kindness are wonderful ways to pay it forward. These kind deeds are bound to leave you feeling involved, present and even more grateful. The next time you have an amazing day and the sun feels like it’ll never stop shining, take time to share that happiness with someone else. You never know; they just might need a pick-me-up.vegetarian meal

3. Mindful eating: practice a daily “yoga meal.” When I was in a 200-hour yoga teacher training, the program asked us to incorporate one yoga meal into our daily life. The meal is composed of a vegetarian meal with a serving size of roughly two fistfuls of food. You were to sit without any outside distractions (no TV, reading materials, phones or even music with lyrics). The meal could be inside or outside, with company or alone. Once you sit down for the meal, you’re not to get up. This forced me to make sure the table had everything I’d need before sitting. After you sit down, take 5 to 10 deep inhales and exhales through the nose, clearing the mind and bringing awareness to the present moment. While eating, the goal is to take a bite, place your utensil down and chew without scooping up the next bite or speaking while chewing. The purpose of this yoga meal is to practice mindfully preparing your food, setting the table and eating.

You can then apply this mindfulness to other aspects of your daily life. I can’t put into words how helpful mindful eating was in guiding me to slow down and truly enjoy my food and the company I had (even if the meal was by myself). I often eat less during yoga meals because I’m more aware of what I’m eating and how full I feel. Not to mention, the food tastes better. Studies have shown that we absorb more nutrients when there are no outside distractions while eating. If you want to learn more about mindful eating, “The Slowdown Diet,” written by Marc David, is a wonderful start.

goal setting

4. Set a daily intention. Give yourself time each day to wake up and set a mindful intention. Before setting your intention, take 5 deep cleansing breaths through your nose to bring awareness to the present moment. Think about what your day might entail. If you’re having trouble staying calm at work, your intention might be to remain patient with others. Maybe it’s your day off, and your intention is simply to have fun! Ask yourself throughout the day if you’re keeping with your intention. When you have a clear goal for the day, you can catch yourself falling off track and easily reel it back in. Setting an intention allows you to take better care of your own needs. You’ll start to feel less reactive to stressors, more successful at communicating what you want and need, and you’ll feel more present as you move throughout the day.

Rachel Norton BSN, RN

Rachel Norton became an RN in 2007 and has been part of the Vivian team since 2019. She has always worked in critical care, and spent the first 12 years of her career working in a surgical neuroscience trauma ICU. She's also worked as a flight nurse, started travel nursing in 2010 and continued working in the ICU until joining Vivian full-time in 2022. As a user researcher, Rachel advocates for healthcare workers to help bridge the gap between employee and employer expectations.

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