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My #1 practice for recovering perfectionists

A regular gratitude practice is one of the most valuable routines a perfectionist can put in place.

As perfectionists, we train our brains to scan for the negatives. In our jobs, for example, we’ve been rewarded for finding and solving problems. We identify risks in order to keep our families safe. We eliminate all forms of chaos to keep our world controlled. Over time, our brains can’t help but increasingly scan the world around us for the negatives, the risks, the problems. Scanning, re-scanning, over and over. Over time, this becomes the primary filter through which we start to see the world. A regular gratitude practice helps retrain our brains to see the positives – and creates the open-mindedness required for us to actually experience a greater range of positive events. Tal Ben-Shahar, a perfectionism expert, reminds us that "When we appreciate the good, the good appreciates." By committing to gratitude, we can retrain our brains to see the positives, leading to relief, contentment, and a renewed sense of wonder. Research confirms that expressing gratitude has powerful effects on our happiness, optimism, success, generosity, and physical health. Integrating a gratitude practice into our busy lives may seem challenging, especially if we envision it as a time-consuming daily journaling session. However, even lightweight and flexible practices hold significant value. Consider these approaches:

  • Once-a-week gratitude practice: Even a weekly expression of gratitude has proven positive impact.

  • Chicken-scratch practice: No need for elaborate entries. Take just 2 minutes a few mornings a week to jot down bullet points.

  • Visualizing: Experience the benefits of gratitude without writing. Take a moment to vividly recall what you're grateful for and visualize it. Anytime, anywhere.

  • Write a letter: Once a month, write an appreciation letter to someone, sharing the reasons you're grateful for them. This enriches your life and positively impacts others.

  • End-of-day pause: Instead of dwelling on unfinished tasks, spend just one minute appreciating what you accomplished that day.

  • Dinner time ritual: Gather your loved ones around the table each evening and share one thing you're grateful for. It's a simple, time-efficient tradition that often sparks unexpected laughter (especially with young kids!)

  • Date night tradition: Strengthen your relationship by setting aside 15 minutes each week to reflect on three things you appreciate about your partner or three positive experiences you shared.

And if, in the moment, gratitude seems elusive, jot down three things you're looking forward to instead. Gratitude doesn't have to be elaborate or perfectly executed. Even the simplest routines, practiced regularly (not perfectly!), can rewire our brains to scan for the positive, creating a brighter, warmer world filled with opportunities. Oprah once said, "What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it." I hope you’ll give gratitude a try, sticking with it even when you stumble, committing to an imperfect but powerful practice. When you do, let me know what you experience!

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