5 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
Most of the ways we talk about gratitude is as if it was a feeling. “I feel so grateful,” we might say, especially around the table during Thanksgiving dinner. But gratitude isn’t a feeling so much as a practice. We have to cultivate gratitude just during the Thanksgiving season, but every single day.
Why be grateful?
In research on gratitude, it was found that practicing gratitude in a few different ways on a weekly basis can contribute to an individual’s sense of happiness and overall sense of well-being. Some preliminary research on gratitude also shows a positive correlation between gratitude and better sleep and heart health as well as fewer body aches.
Arianna Huffington says it best, “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.”
Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude that you can start today.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the simplest way you can start to incorporate gratitude into your life. Pick a time every day (ideally at the same time everyday) to write about the things you’re grateful for. You can choose to list ten things or just to write for ten minutes. You can be grateful for the fact that you woke up that morning, the seat warmers in your car, or that your partner makes dinner every night.
This practice can begin to start changing your mindset. You’ll start looking for things to be grateful for, which is the whole point. Just remember to stick to the habit as consistency will help you get the most benefits.
- Make a commitment to tell one person a day how much they matter to you or thank them.
We get a good feeling both when the people we love tell us they care for us and when we tell them how much we care for them. Make the conscious choice to seek out one person a day (it doesn’t have to be a different person every day!) to either tell them how much they matter to or to thank them.
This could be anyone from your favorite barista, your partner, your child, to your lawn care people. Seeing their face light up when you share with them will definitely make your face light up too.
- Volunteer for an organization that helps in your local community.
You’ve probably heard before: “If we’re grateful for what we have, then we share it.”
Volunteering can remind you of all that you have. It can help put your small foibles in perspective too because there are always those who are struggling worse than you. Volunteering has actually also been shown to make you happy.
- Start a yoga and/or meditation practice.
Yoga pairs mindful action with body movement. This allows you to stay in the moment and be entirely present with yourself. Your body is amazing and strong, and yoga can help remind you of that. Both yoga and gratitude are about actively celebrating what you have and who you are. While you’re doing yoga, make sure to wear some activewear leggings.
Yoga and meditation also pair perfectly together. Whether you’re sitting, lying down, walking, or driving your car, you can practice meditation by taking deep breaths and experiencing the moment as fully as possible. You may have thoughts come up, and that’s okay. Just observe them and don’t dwell on them. You could also to choose to meditate on things you’re grateful for or just repeating over and over again, “I am grateful.”
- Find gratitude in the little things.
Life happens, and it’s not necessarily always good. Eva Perlman, a Holocaust survivor, chose to deal with her survivor’s guilt by focusing on the amazing events that led to her survival and her family’s. Despite seeing a myriad of atrocities, she chose to focus on being grateful for every little thing.
It’s not always easy feeling grateful when we are laid off from a job, lose a loved one, or face some other hardship, but we can find comfort in the fact that our barista got our coffee order right or that the sunrise was really beautiful.
The wonderful thing about starting a gratitude practice is that, once you start, your perspective shifts. You begin to see things you may have been blind to before, like how your neighbor always smiles and waves or that, even though working from home isn’t ideal, at least you don’t have to change out of your sweatpants.