7 Ways to Start a Gratitude Practice

I know thanksgiving is over, and you are sick of hearing about being thankful, but hear me out for a minute.  While expressing our gratitude over the holidays is all good and well, we need (yes, NEED) to be practicing it the other 365 days a year. I mean, don’t you want to feel more joy, happiness, and over all better wellbeing all year long? Scientific studies have shown that gratitude practice leads to:

  • More meaningful relationships
  • Increased productivity at work
  • Better physical health
  • Reduced depression
  • Increases happiness
  • Heighten sense of wellbeing
  • Increased over all enjoyment of one’s life
  • Increased hope and purpose
  • Increased empathy

A pretty good sales pitch for gratitude, right? But now how do you do it? Just like working out and healthy eating, we need to make gratitude a habit.  Here are 7 ways you can have more thankfulness in your day, pick one (or all).

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“There are many beautiful reasons to be HAPPY.” My gratitude journal.

 

 

  1. Gratitude journal. Yeah, you’ve heard this before. We all know we are supposed to write down 5 things we are thankful for.  But if you find yourself writing something along the lines of “I’m thankful for my significant other, my kids, my job, my dog… oh yeah and coffee” Then I encourage you to change it up a bit.  Pick just one topic and write 5 things about that topic you are thankful for.  For example here is one I wrote about my husband:

He supports me and all my crazy ideas.

He is a great father to our boys.He tells the best bed time stories to the boys, so I can have a few minutes alone every night.

He can grill one mean steak.

He is always encouraging me to be and do more.

He cleans my car for me (and if you know me you know this is HUGE).

2.  Acknowledge others. Truly listen to them and look them in eye.  And not just with your boss, do this with the barista at your coffee shop, your waitress, the kid who checks you in at the gym. Do this with every one you come in contact with.  Put down your phone, look them in the eye and honestly thank them.

3.  Show gratitude to yourself.  Seriously. Stop comparing yourself to others. Instead recognize what you have accomplished. When someone complements you, accept it.  If you feel uncomfortable just smile and say thank you. Do not try to talk them out of it or explain the compliment. Take the compliment.

4.  Make sure all your loved ones know you are grateful for them. Randomly pick one person a day, and make sure you let them know you are grateful for them.

5.  Send out hand written thank you notes.

6.  At least once a day, tell someone who is important in your life how important they are.  Pick one person per day, and send them a text, email, DM, snap, whatever and just let them you know are grateful they are part of your life.

7.  Smile. So simple, yet so powerful. And it’s contagious.

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Ok so I know I said gratitude 365, but let’s be honest here. No one, and I mean no one is able to count their blessings and be thankful every single day of the year. We all have those days. Heck we are not robots.  We have good days and bad.  However, when we are in the habit of practicing gratitude regularly, it can help with the bad days.  They may not last as long or be as bad.   Regular gratitude practice can act as a life raft and help float us through the darker days.

It’s not that you have to be active in your gratitude practice on the days you don’t even want to get out of bed (that would be crazy!) to reap the benefits.  If you have been practicing thankfulness up until this point, then that is what will help the crappy day not be as bad or last as long. Research shows gratitude can help those suffering with major catastrophic health events (like cancers and heart attacks) so, imagine what it can do for the average person just dealing with a super crappy day?

All you have to do is pick one of the 7 ideas mentioned above and give it a go for a few weeks.  Maybe if you find it’s not so bad, try adding in another.  If you do, leave me a comment or drop me a line and let me know how it went.  I’d love to hear.  And if you already have an established gratitude practice, tell me how you do it.  I enjoy hearing how other include thankfulness in their lives.

 

 

references

Bolier L, H. M. (2013). Positive psychology interventions: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. BMC Public Health., 119.

Emmons RA1, M. M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. , 377-89.

Lambert NM, C. M. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude: expressing gratitude to a partner changes one’s view of the relationship. Psychol Sci., 574-80.

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