How to Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude has incredible effects, from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Explore ways you can be more appreciative in our mindful guide to gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can be a game-changer: it has far-reaching effects, from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins—like the bus showing up right on time, a stranger holding the door for you, or the sun shining through your window when you wake up in the morning. Each of these small moments strings together to create a web of well-being that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good. Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult. It just takes practice. The more you can bring your attention to that which you feel grateful for, the more you’ll notice what to feel grateful for!
Start by observing. Notice the thank yous you say. Just how much of a habitual response is it? Is it a hasty aside, an afterthought? How are you feeling when you express thanks in small transactions? Stressed, uptight, a little absent-minded? Do a quick scan of your body—are you already physically moving on to your next interaction?
Pick one interaction a day. When your instinct to say “thanks” arises, stop for a moment and take note. Can you name what you feel grateful for, even beyond the gesture that’s been extended? Then say thank you.
How Do I Practice Gratitude?
Robert Emmons, psychology professor and gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that 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
Most of us know it’s important to express thanks to the people who help us, or silently acknowledge the things we are grateful for in life. Research has linked gratitude with a wide range of benefits, including strengthening your immune system and improving sleep patterns, feeling optimistic and experiencing more joy and pleasure, being more helpful and generous, and feeling less lonely and isolated.
Interested in reaping some of these benefits? Get started with a gratitude practice.
Practicing Daily Gratitude
10 Ways to Practice Daily Gratitude
As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” Saying thank you, holding the door for someone, these little moments can change the tone of your whole day.
One of the most powerful ways to rewire your brain for more joy and less stress is to focus on gratitude. Here are 10 simple ways to become more grateful:
Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits and good things you enjoy. Recalling moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable theme of gratefulness into your life.
Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
Ask Yourself Three Questions. Meditate on your relationships with parents, friends, siblings, work associates, children, and partners using these three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
Share Your Gratitude with Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So, the next time your partner, friend, or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.
Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction but also a gift.
Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Oftentimes, the best visual reminders are other people.
Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
Watch Your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
Go Through the Motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude. By “going through grateful motions,” you’ll trigger the emotion of gratitude more often.
Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must look creatively for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.
Excerpts from: Mind, Body