3 Ways Having a Gratitude Practice Has Improved My Business

The Weekly Wine Downs are officially LIVE! Last Wednesday I went live on my Facebook page, and now you can watch that video on YouTube (or below). I'll summarize the points in the blog post below, in case you prefer to read!

Practicing gratitude used to sound like a very strange idea to me. Why was it something to practice? It wasn’t like a sport or trying to do calligraphy. I was so confused about this concept of a ‘practice’, or even a ritual (if you prefer to call it that), until I actually sat down one day and was ready to give this whole gratitude thing a try.

I didn’t know what to do.

It was the same feeling I’d get if someone handed me a football and said, “okay, throw a perfect spiral”. I was just sitting there, a little dumbstruck, and thinking… well, now what?

Then I realized why we call it a practice. Because it takes time, energy, and commitment to incorporate gratitude into your life and routine. It, sadly, doesn’t come as naturally as you think it should. The good news is that a gratitude practice a) is not very hard, b) requires no hand-eye coordination, and c) has pretty immediate results.

I started incorporating gratitude into my daily life over a year ago, though I wasn’t incredibly consistent at it at first. Over the past few months, however, gratitude has become part of my morning ritual. It’s become something that if I skimp on, or miss altogether, makes me feel a little bit off. It’s improved my stress levels, my happiness levels, my productivity levels, my income, and my overall view on the world (just to name  few things, haha).

The best times in my business history, if they were plotted on a graph, would coincide very well with when I am taking time to practice gratitude daily. I don’t think that’s a fluke at all. In fact, I think gratitude is to blame for nearly all the positive things I have in my life, and business, lately. But for purposes of this TALK, let’s focus on what a gratitude practice can do for your business.


LESS STRESSFUL DAYS

On a personal note, I don’t handle stress well. My natural ways include bottling everything up and then having a meltdown over some incredibly small trigger (the latest episode of this happened because the gym was too full and I couldn’t figure out where to do a workout that I was kind of embarrassed to do - burpees - privately enough). Other alternatives to that include lashing out against people, crying in public, and laying on the couch unable to do anything for a day or two. Real good stuff over here.

I won’t begin to pretend that I understand why I do that, or why anyone handles stress the way they do, and I won’t lie to you and tell you that writing 3 things I’m grateful for makes that stress disappear. It’s still very much there, but this practice (over time, of course) has helped me to have a better handle on stress.

What practicing gratitude has opened up is my ability to stop when I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed and figure out what’s going on and how I can fix it. It’s allowed me to start to zoom out a bit, and see that in the larger scope of whatever is going on, this small issue is just that - small. Now there are probably people who say that practicing meditation works in this way for them, or going for a run, or having a glass of wine helps.

I did a little research, and there are scientific studies apparently going on (because gratitude is such a hot topic right now), that having a gratitude practice shows up physically in people - and one big way is with lower cortisol levels. I am not a sciencey-person, but I do know that cortisol is the stress hormone, and we don’t want too much of that. I can’t tell you whether or not my cortisol levels are any different, but I can tell you that days when I am consistently practicing gratitude are some of my calmest, easiest, least-stressful days. And the same life and business things are always happening, but I can cope a lot better.

As entrepreneurs stress is inevitable. We are out here, trying to make something out of nothing and profit from it. That’s risky, and scary, and definitely stressful - but having a gratitude practice can help ease some of that overwhelm and let you think and produce good things easier and with less PANIC crying-at-the-gym-over-burpees moments.


SEE MORE OPPORTUNITIES

Another huge benefit I’ve seen since incorporating a gratitude practice into my daily life is seeing more opportunities for growth and success. Now, maybe that sounds far-fetched, or just like a happy coincidence, but there is logic to this idea.

Without getting too into the Law of Attraction, or anything too ‘woo’, have you heard of the idea (or had it happen to you) that you express an interest in something and suddenly it’s everywhere? A common example is when you buy a new car, and suddenly it seems like you see that car everywhere - at the grocery store, in line ahead of you at Starbucks, coming out of your neighborhood… what gives?!

It’s actually a real thing, called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (also known as a frequency or recency illusion). The concept is actually really simple - all those instances of the car were there before, but because you put it into your mind and went out and spent time researching the car and buying one, your brain starts to give that more attention. You start to subsciously think about the car, and it’s always sitting in the back of your brain, ready to jump at the excitement of seeing it. And then you do see it, and you feel validated and like ‘it’s popping up everywhere’, which continues the cycle of you thinking about it…

So, here’s how that applies to gratitude: you think about things that you are grateful for, you take time to appreciate the good things in your life… and you start to notice them more and more. It’s not magic, or mysticism, or anything from the land of ‘woo’ (though that is a totally fun land), but instead your brain just doing what it does best - looking for patterns and connections.

In business, an example of how this works happened to me a few weeks ago - it’s something I could see clearly after the fact. I wrote one morning how grateful I was to have clients that I view as friends and have a real connection with. Then, an opportunity presented itself later in the day to send a nice, friendly message to one of my clients congratulating them on something in their business. We had a nice exchange, which resulted in her setting up a referral for a new client for me because she knew our personalities would be a good mix.

Now, that’s not to say this whole moment couldn’t have happened otherwise, but it does seem like because I put out into the world that I am grateful for friendships with clients, that maybe at some level that made me more likely to randomly reach out to my client about something unrelated to us working together, which led to a friendly exchange and resulted in me gaining another friendly client.

Other ways that I see gratitude impact my business, that are maybe less obvious than that example, are just in the ability to again see that bigger picture and see opportunities that maybe I would normally gloss over because it’s not something I need or want at that exact moment. You also start to see things that seem potentially bad as opportunities (yes, you become one of those silver-lining people). An example of that is ending relationships with 2 clients that cause you stress and anxiety, to gain room in your schedule for 1 new client that is a better fit - which also happened to me recently. I could’ve been very negative about the clients that I stopped working with, but it was amicable and not personal, and just finished some projects that we had started together. I started to feel a little anxious, but remembered that some of our work together had been not my ideal situation and too stressful, and maybe there was an opportunity to replace that income with a better fitting client. The next day, I did.


BETTER QUALITY WORK

The last big effect I’ve seen on my business since putting gratitude at the forefront of my mind is overall my quality of work has just drastically improved. I’m not specifically talking about my ability as a graphic designer, but as a business owner in general. I respond to emails quicker, I get through my to do list with ease, and I take time in the middle of the day to do a little meditation and relaxing.

Again, this could be a testament to a lot of things in my life: I’m also working out more, eating a ketogenic diet, and practicing intermittent fasting -- all things that can be tied to better productivity and less brain fog. But, I can’t do any of those things with getting my mind in the right place and that, for me, all starts with gratitude.

Because trust me, when you really want to eat some carbs, you’ve got to find a way to be grateful for the salad instead. Just kidding. Kind of.

But you may be wondering, why do I give gratitude the credit for all of this? Because it’s the first thing I do in the morning and sets the tone for my whole day. I promise you, this ketogenic diet thing is not even remotely easy, if someone were to offer me a cinnamon roll right now I’d probably push babies and puppies out of the way to get it (jk, don’t get mad), but taking just a few moments to remember why I am doing it, that I’m grateful for some of the immediate results I’ve experienced, etc. help me to stick with it. And that example could be anything - running a business is also hard AF, but taking the time to reflect on why I am glad I do it, and how I am grateful for the opportunities it has given me helps to stick with it. It pulls you out of the *~THIS MOMENT SUCKS~* and lets you get back to realizing how good things really are and can be.


Have you started your gratitude practice yet? If not, this journal is what initially helped me get started and one I highly, highly recommend. I’d love to hear how gratitude has impacted you, or if you have any thoughts of questions! Leave a comment below and let’s connect.




I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!


5 Things You Should Always Make Time For As A Creative Entrepreneur

Hey boss babe! The Weekly Wine Downs are officially LIVE! Last Wednesday I went live on my Facebook page, and now you can watch that video on YouTube (or below). I'll summarize the points in the blog post below, in case you prefer to read!

Here’s the deal: we are busy. Super, crazy, overwhelmingly, busy. Running our own businesses is hard and entails so much more work than we could’ve ever imagined. I know how easy it is to fall into the habit of working 14-16 hour days and barely stop for water, let alone a healthy meal. I’m going to let you in on a secret though: working like that does not make your best work and will lead to burnout, exhaustion, panic attacks in the middle of the night when you remembered something urgent, and overall bad vibes.

How can I say that so confidently? Because, girl, been there, done that. Did that. For a long time. And let’s be real here, it sucks. It’s not why we got into this whole entrepreneur thing anyway, right?! We wanted freedom. We wanted long lunches and lazy mornings. We wanted to make our own routines, work from cute coffee shops, and inspire others. We did not want to wear the same clothes for 3 days in a row and have a headache from the top-knot our hair has been in for just as long.

At the start of this year when I was evaluating my schedule and blocking things off and prepping for some shifts I decided there would be 5 non-negotiables in my life and schedule that I would always honor, always make time for, and walk away from the long crazy to-do list to get done. I made myself understand that the things on this list are just as important as anything else I would NEVER miss (this might be picking up your kids from school, seeing relatives when they’re in town, etc. For me it was getting to the grocery store when I knew I was out of wine, or getting to Chipotle before they close. Just kidding. Kind of).

They’re things that make me my best self and therefore my best boss and best business owner. Something that you don’t always notice when you’re an employee is how your boss impacts everything - if they walk in grumpy and worn out and mean - the day is going to be shitty. So now, you’re the boss - if you walk into work feeling like crap, it’s going to be a crap day. I realized this when I listened to a friend who was upset about their mercurial boss and how they ruined the whole mood in their office. It dawned on me that hey I do that the same way in my own business…

My hope is that this will inspire you to establish your own personal non-negotiables and make time for yourself outside of your business. Without further ado…


Creative Brainstorms

I’ve always valued time to be creative in both my life and my business, but I did get caught up in over-scheduling last year and only allowed myself ‘creative brainstorms’ at  set time. In retrospect, that sounds completely ridiculous. How can you say, “On Wednesdays from 2-3pm I’ll be creative”?!

My business does require me to think creatively often throughout the day, and that’s something I manage well at this point. However, whenever my brain starts to really be in a flow and make connections and start to solve things… I don’t stop it. I used to think, “oh I’ll figure this out later” but later didn’t always happen. This has happened fairly often recently, as I’ve been putting a lot of time into thinking about “the big picture” for TheCrownFox and scaling my business. I do dedicate time to meditation and journaling and reflecting, but sometimes (often, actually), hours later when I’m mindlessly doing something else my brain will start to work through those ideas and generate some really great thoughts - I’ve adjusted my reaction to that and accepted it and took the time to keep going down that rabbit hole and have a brainstorm session right then and there.

What that really looks like is keeping a journal and pen nearby, so when ideas start pouring, I can write them down. It also looks like being flexible and knowing that even though I was in the middle of making my salad (I literally eat a Caesar salad everyday, I don’t know what’s wrong with me), I might need to take ten minutes to write down what’s in my head.

Granted, there are times when this is just not possible. For example, driving. You can’t exactly start scribbling away then, but I do let my mind wander (safely, of course) and if I need to voice record something I’ll do that. For me, I’ve noticed this usually happens during my non-working hours, when I’ved ‘turned off’ my client brain, and am just starting to relax - magic seems to happen, and I’ve gotten much better at embracing it.


Self-Care

Self-care is totally new to me. Not to sound like some sort of martyr that never took time for herself, because I totally did. I just never knew it as ‘self-care’ and I never knew how to embrace it and use it to the best of my abilities to feel calm, collected, taken care of, etc.

My self-care routine looks like a lot of baths, a lot of journaling, reading, working out. These are things that make me feel happy and good about myself and my life. And now, they’re non-negotiables in my schedule. Now, I don’t mean that I have ‘take a bath’ written in my agenda, but I do mean that if I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or just anything other than great, I’ll stop and try and figure out a) what’s wrong and b) what will make me feel better. Sometimes it’s getting physical and going to have a good workout (okay, I’m not a great worker-outer, but Will and I recently changed our gym routine and it’s my ~dream~ gym routine, so now I get excited to go), and often it’s sitting in a really hot bath with some sort of meditation (I like the Insight Timer app) going.

In the past I would’ve disregarded my feelings and just ‘worked through it’ which eventually would have resulted in feeling worse or snapping at someone or something not very becoming. Now, no matter how busy or crazy my schedule seems, I prioritize making sure that I feel good by giving myself time to work through whatever is going on. At the end of the day, you’ve got to look out for number 1.


Real Connections

I’m pretty introverted. I like and need a good amount of alone time. This has affected my ability to really connect with people for as long as I can remember. Over the past year I’ve come to realize that I use this knowledge about myself to avoid doing things and stay in.

While staying in is fine sometimes, there is definitely something to be said about making real connections and making time for a life outside of business. Now, this could totally mean making a business bestie and connecting with them virtually -- but you should connect and talk about life sometimes too, not just your next marketing campaign.

This is still a work in progress for yours truly, but it is something that is important to me (and hopefully is to you too). Being obsessed with your business is great, but if it’s the only thing in your life it wont end well. One bad day or week of sales will send you into tailspin. One mean client will have you questioning everything. Instead, put some emotional eggs in other baskets, so you can find joy in cute lunch dates and trying the new espresso bar downtown.


Gratitude

I know you already know how important gratitude is. It’s a hot topic! It’s everywhere! But, y’all, there’s some legit truth in it. Gratitude is important. It’s vital. Set time aside daily or weekly to devote to gratitude. This is something I’ve been working at for over a year now, and the days that I spend just 10 minutes writing out a few things I am grateful for are the days that feel like they run the smoothest and leave me feeling the happiest.

There are countless studies on why this happens, but in my experience it just boils down to not letting every little thing send you into a whirlwind and having that ‘big picture’ mentality that sometimes is so necessary to keep us from getting too stressed out.

My goal is to write 3 general things I am grateful for each morning (and they are sometimes as simple as being grateful for my pillow, or for having socks on my cold toes), and in the evening 3 things I’m grateful for that happened that specific day (like getting paid, or eating a healthy dinner).

This practice has helped me shift my overall mentality towards ‘bad’ events - I’m one of those look-for-the-silver-lining type people now. Gross right?! Just kidding. But overall, it does make for a happier me, which means a happier business, and that’s one step closer to success.


Time to Unwind

Scheduling time to decompress and unwind between work and any activities after work, I’ve realized, is something I desperately need. For example, if I have dinner plans at 7, I need at least 30 minutes between work and that to relax, get ‘the day’ off my mind, and shift gears. I guess those with a more traditional 9-5 probably do this during their commute, but for us work-from-homers we have to create that routine and personal time.

It’s important because, inevitably, something will have been stressful in your day, and you don’t want to carry that into the rest of your life unnecessarily. It’s difficult when you work from home because those feelings start to cross-wires, since you aren’t physically leaving that drama anywhere. But, instead, you can create time to mentally do that. This can be whatever you need it to be - for me it sometimes looks like just shutting off my computer and mindlessly scrolling through Instagram for a bit. Or reading  book. Or going for a quick walk (but it’s a little too cold for that right now). Maybe it’s a quick 15-minute yoga flow, or mindless tidying and folding laundry. It just needs to be something that is calming, not work related, and in my opinion, quiet.


These are my non-negotiables, but that doesn’t necessarily  mean they have to be yours. I do encourage you to think on some things that make you feel good, make you feel relaxed, and make you feel confident and start putting those things higher up on your priority list. Your business can’t run without YOU, so taking care of yourself should always be priority #1.



I’m Kaitlyn, your design assistant! I work with successful creative entrepreneurs to create cohesive, clean, and compelling visuals for their businesses. You can keep being the #girlboss you are (but with more time to focus on growing your empire)! Let's set up a time to chat!