I Started Using Gratitude Alarms For Self-Care & I Never Expected These 5 Things To Happen

It's 8 p.m., and I'm watching Law & Order: SVU (again). I hear my phone buzz and check the home screen, scrambling for the remote so I can pause the show and center my attention on the day I just had. Sure, I may have been stressed at work, or my subway may have been delayed by a half hour, but what else happened? There has to be at least one good thing, right? When I say gratitude alarms can change your life, I mean it. Ever since I started using one, I've become somewhat of an expert at finding even a sliver of positivity on an otherwise awful day. Yes, it wasn't always easy to scope out what I'm grateful for in my everyday life, but after four months of using my gratitude alarm, I'm now basking in the benefits, and honestly, I couldn't be happier.

I was first introduced to gratitude alarms by my boyfriend's terminally ill cousin back in February 2018. Despite her condition, she continued to persevere and found something to be thankful for every day she was alive. Even on days when she couldn't speak or get out of bed, she'd always use these alarms to help her find purpose and gratitude in even the smallest of things, like taking a walk around the block, or even just being able to open her mouth to speak. I was so inspired by her, I decided try out the alarms for myself.

The idea itself is simple: Set an alarm every day (mine goes off at 8 p.m., but you can set yours for whatever time works best for you), and state what you're thankful for, whether it's a good day at work, or quality time spent with people you love. Personally, I find it more helpful to say it aloud, but you can write your thoughts down on paper, or even in a notes app on your phone — whatever feels most comfortable for you. Overall, the exercise is simply about finding something to be grateful for amidst the chaos and stress of your daily routine.

After four months of having a gratitude alarm in my life, I can honestly say my life has changed for the better, all thanks to a simple self-care routine that literally takes less than minute to do. Here's what I've gained from using gratitude alarms every day, and what you might be able to learn from practicing this habit, too.

You Learn To Trust Yourself
Lauren Dana

When you start taking charge of and transforming your thought process through the practice of gratitude, it quickly bleeds into other realms of your life, like decision-making. As someone who's had a hard time making decisions in the past, I've found that my gratitude alarm has helped me trust and go with my gut. Whether I'm nervous about speaking up about an idea at a work meeting, or even about something as trivial as giving my friend advice on relationship troubles, I've found that I no longer need added reassurance from others before I express myself; now, I simply trust my instincts. And although there's no direct, proven link between gratitude and self-trust, psychology experts such as Nathaniel Lambert, Ph.D. believe that practicing gratitude can lead to self-acceptance.

For me, when my gratitude alarm goes off at night, it serves as a reminder that I am enough, exactly as I am. If it's the night before a big interview, I remember that I do have the skills and experience to nail this opportunity. If it's the night before meeting my boyfriend's extended family for the first time, I remember I don't have anything to be worried about, and that I have the confidence in me to navigate this situation and feel comfortable in my own skin.

By taking this time to reflect on yourself and your experiences through a gratitude practice, those feelings of self-doubt, and the "what if" moments, all start to wash away.

You Gain Lots Of Confidence
Lauren Dana

Whether it's in a professional or personal setting, practicing gratitude can help you feel more secure with your actions and decisions. In fact, this theory's backed by science: A 2014 study published in The Journal of Applied Sports Psychology researched the effects of gratitude on athletes and showed that feeling thankful not only enhanced the athletes' self-esteem, but their overall performance in their sport, too.

I have high-functioning anxiety, and in short, that basically means, despite my ability to carry out my day-to-day routine (and kick some butt, if I do say so myself), sometimes I get anxious about small things — for example, when I complete a task and worry for hours after the fact if I performed it to the best of my ability. I am the first to admit I second-guess myself quite often. However, I've found that the gratitude alarms have been a surprisingly huge help with some of my anxiety. For example, when I attended an intern orientation back in May, I felt confident to walk into a room full of complete strangers and open myself up to chat with people, despite how reserved I usually am. I felt grateful just to be there in that moment, and thus felt confident enough to fully take advantage of the opportunity and ~own it~.

Pre-gratitude alarm, this would have been a huge challenge for me, as I do tend to get self-conscious around new people and in unfamiliar environments, like a new job. But now, it's all about owning these moments and creating more memories I can happily reflect on and feel grateful for. While the alarms have been helpful for me in managing my own anxiety, it may not work for everyone — but it doesn't hurt to give it a shot.

You Feel More Empowered
Lauren Dana

When you take a few seconds out of your day to pause and change your train of thought, you're allowing yourself to take charge of your life and the day's events. Even if you've had a really crappy day, you can use your gratitude alarm to find one thing — no matter how small — to be grateful for, to help you remember all the positive things you have going for you, and remind yourself how blessed you truly are. For example, even when it's the end of the month and I'm super short on money (I am a college student, after all), I now find myself turning the situation around and finding gratitude in something as simple as the fact that I'm able to not only do what I love most in life, but also get paid for it.

Personally, I find it empowering to take control of my thoughts, and to be able to use feelings like gratitude to fuel a new perspective in my life. You may not be able to control other people's actions, but you can control your reactions.

You Become A Master At Mindfulness
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According to UC Berkeley's Greater Good Magazine, mindfulness is defined as "maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens." In other words, mindfulness gives you the opportunity to view your thoughts as just that: thoughts, meaning there's no "right" or "wrong" way of thinking. This makes it easier to focus your energy on the present moment without thinking too far ahead into the future.

The thing is, a clear understanding of, and ability to practice mindfulness is essential for practicing gratitude, because it's all about expressing a clear appreciation for the present, without looking into the past or worrying about the future. And I'm not the only one who believes this; the connection between gratitude and mindfulness has been confirmed by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfeld: In a 2014 interview with Greater Good Magazine, he said, "Cultivating an opening to gratitude also helps us to become more mindful of the life around us and what circumstance we’re in." In other words, almost by necessity, gratitude and mindfulness will always go hand in hand, in one way or another.

You Learn The Value Of Patience And Empathy
Lauren Dana

When you make gratitude part of your daily routine, you quickly learn not to sweat the small stuff anymore. You're more understanding of people's actions, and that patience ultimately transforms into vulnerability: You forge deeper connections with the people around you, and you find yourself feeling more engaged in conversations, whether they're with friends, peers, or even supervisors. Practicing gratitude helps you relate to people on deeper, more meaningful levels, regardless of any differences in background, culture, or interests. In fact, a 2006 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that those who practice gratitude are more likely to help others, so clearly, there's a strong connection between the two.

Personally, I've even found that practicing gratitude has helped strengthen my relationship with my boyfriend: I've started feeling more comfortable opening up to him, I'm more communicative overall, and I've learned to better understand where he's coming from, too, even during those moments when we have completely different perspectives or opinions.

As I continue on my gratitude journey and prioritize this self-care routine, I feel as confident as ever when presenting myself in new environments and situations. I promise, if you give it a chance, you, too will feel ready to tackle anything that comes your way.