Gratitude is essentially an emotion that recognizes the unearned value that is given throughout your life. Sometimes these life "gifts" are obvious and clear (you receive
a pay raise right when you need it, someone is nice enough to hold a door open for you, you get a much-needed helping hand around the house, etc). On the other hand, sometimes you have to search for gratitude and choose feelings of gratefulness.
Gratitude can be felt for people, moments, places- just about anything! And, it doesn’t always have to be from a positive experience or person. Sometimes life's unkindness, although hurtful in the moment, can turn into gratitude later. For example, rejection can be a stroke of good luck when you realize you’re better off for it. However, these can be the tough moments that you have to search for gratitude in.
Finding gratitude, even in tough moments, is a skill that can be cultivated with some daily attention and practice- and it’s absolutely worth your additional time. Regularly practicing gratitude can have profound effects on your health and well-being.
Why is Gratitude Important?
A regular gratitude practice is strongly associated with feelings of contentment and peace. Some of the benefits of gratitude include:
Helps you feel more positive emotions
Creates more awareness in everyday life
Makes you more resilient, and;
Improves your relationships.
Regularly practicing gratitude doesn’t dissolve all life’s worries but, it can take off some of the pressure. In addition, some studies have suggested that a regular gratitude practice can aid physical aches and pains by:
Decreasing fatigue, and;
Improving sleep quality
10 Ways to Help You Practice Gratitude
Like any habit, regularly practicing gratitude can be difficult to start. That’s why we’ve compiled 10 simple ways to help you start (and keep!) your gratitude practice:
Start by observing. Even the smallest of things or moments might give you feelings of gratitude. And these small things especially should not be overlooked as they have the ability to build a safety net of well-being over time.
Keep a gratitude journal. You can sharpen your observational skills by writing down your observations of what you're grateful for every day. This can be done at the beginning of the day to remind you of all the positive things you have in your life (almost like putting on protective gear before going out to ride life's daily roller coaster), or it can be done at the end of the day to help you reflect and find peace.
Say “thank you”, and mean it! Being more aware means you’ll experience others’ kindness to you in a whole new way, so make sure to let them know as often as you can.
Reflect on your growth. It can be easy to get bogged down in the rumination of your past mistakes and failures. Instead, start reminding yourself of how much you’ve grown from those experiences.
Create visual reminders for yourself. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. This can be as simple as posting a sticky note to your fridge to remind yourself to be grateful today.
Commit to an act of daily kindness to someone, or something, outside of yourself. Hold the door open for someone, pick up someone’s coffee tab, volunteer at an animal shelter, even help a turtle get to the other side of the road unharmed- these can all be ways to act kindly to others.
Avoid gossip and talking badly about others. Instead, confront relationships at work and in your life directly (but respectfully) as much as you can.
Practice mindfulness and/or meditation to help you live more fully in the present, instead of in the past or future.
Discuss your moments of gratitude openly with your family during daily meal times and encourage them to do the same.
If you have social media, try to engage in content that helps you feel relaxed and inspired instead of critical or judgemental against yourself.
Practicing gratitude can make you happier and more content with life, but finding what makes you happy and content can also make you grateful. Although the above list offers great ways to practice gratitude, you can find plenty of other ways to boost your mood- like exercising, engaging in a hobby you love, or practicing healthy self-care. Either way, the important thing is to slow down and appreciate life a little deeper, you’ll be amazed at how much it can change your physical health and wellbeing!