Would you like to be happier? Sleep better? Have a better immune system? Be more positive at work and in life? Better manage yourself and your emotions? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes", practicing gratitude can help. Research has tied gratitude to all of these benefits and more!
I know that this is traditionally the time that we talk about gratitude, but the truth is that we should be practicing it all year long. There is so much adversity, negativity, and uncertainty in the world. It just takes a scroll through social media or a look at the day’s headlines to launch us into a negative spiral. But we have many things to be grateful for and frankly, most of us are much more fortunate than others in our country and especially in other areas of the world.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. There are two key components of practicing gratitude:
We affirm the good things we’ve received
We acknowledge the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness
Why It's So Important
You have probably noticed that we, as humans, have a tendency to go negative. This is called the Negativity Bias and is tied in with the flight/fight/freeze response that is ingrained in humans to keep us safe. Practicing gratitude can help to counteract this and can help to rewire our brains and create a more relaxed body state. In addition, gratitude has tons of additional benefits as mentioned above.
5 Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude
There are lots of ways to practice gratitude. Use some or all of the 5 suggestions below to amp up your gratitude practice!
1. Say what you are grateful for out loud
Vocalizing what you’re grateful for can be more impactful than simply thinking it. Hearing yourself say it aloud helps cement it in your memory and articulating it helps you identify what aspect of the experience you are grateful for.
You can use Voice Memos or another app to dictate what you’re grateful for (and even save the recordings so you can go back and listen when you need a boost). Or encourage your spouse or family to share something they’re grateful for each evening.
2. Write down what you are grateful for
Keeping a daily or weekly Journal where you record things that you’re grateful for is a great strategy. Writing down 3 things per day is generally recommended but do whatever works for you! You can use the Gratitude Challenge included to kick off this process.
Another suggestion it to use a Gratitude Jar. Choose one evening a week and add a slip of paper to the jar reflecting on 3 to 5 things for which you are grateful. At the end of the month or year, sit down and read through your many moments of gratitude.
3. Share your gratitude with others
Make a conscious effort every single day to tell someone how grateful you are for them. You can call or text someone; write a note of appreciation; give a thank-you gift; or simply thank the cashier at the grocery store.
4. Practice gratitude walks.
Go for a walk and notice the beauty of nature around you. Whether it’s the beauty of the trees, the warmth of the sun, or the flowers and shrubbery that you pass, expressing gratitude for these simple joys can elevate your mood.
5. Volunteer or give back
Helping others can foster a sense of gratitude. Volunteer your time, donate to a cause you believe in, or perform acts of kindness to experience the joy that comes from giving.