Feeling busy and stressed with thoughts leaning in a negative direction? I wouldn’t blame you as there’s a lot going on in the world today with health, politics, climate change and more on top of your day-to-day responsibilities. However, it can be life altering to slow down and develop a gratitude practice. Practicing gratitude is more than saying, “thank you” – it involves noticing and appreciating the good things in your life – big and small. It doesn’t mean ignoring what’s happening in the world, but noticing there are many blessings as well.
There are many benefits to a gratitude practice and it can be contagious which leads to more positivity and kindness in others as well. My favorite part is that it rewires our brain to recognize positive aspects of life more easily and frequently, so that we experience positive emotions more often. Still not fully convinced? Read to find out more about the many benefits and easy ways to get started!
What are the Benefits of Gratitude?
In a white paper titled, “The Science of Gratitude” (2018), there are several benefits to a gratitude practice.
- Increased happiness and positive mood
- More satisfaction with life
- Less materialistic
- Less likely to experience burnout
- Better physical health
- Better sleep
- Less fatigue
- Lower levels of cellular inflammation
- Greater resiliency
- Encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom
Sounds great, right?! Sign me up! However, to experience these benefits, your gratitude practice needs to be consistent. Not time-consuming, but consistent.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate a gratitude practice.
- Journaling – Write three to five things daily that you are truly grateful for. Don’t phone it in and write the same three things everyday. Try to think of at least three unique things to that particular day. Some examples can be a smile from a stranger, a phone call from a friend or scoring something great on sale! I find it easiest to do this at the end of the day, but some prefer first thing in the morning reflecting on the previous day. Pick whenever works best for you.
- At Mealtime – having lived in Japan for four and half years, I love the Japanese tradition of saying, “Itadakimasu” before eating. This practice is to show appreciation for all the people involved in the meal from the person that grew the vegetables, the person that caught the fish, and for whoever prepared the meal. We can simply replace the Japanese saying with our own gratitude expression or perhaps go around the table and ask each person to state something they are grateful for from that day.
- Incorporate Gratitude activities into the holidays. This can make it meaningful and fun for the family. Here are some examples, but you can definitely incorporate a new idea each month.
- Halloween – Use a sharpie to write something that you are grateful for directly on your pumpkin each day during the month of October and end up with a full gratitude pumpkin by Halloween.
- Thanksgiving – First create a tree and have leaves ready to add a new gratitude leaf to the tree each day. You can create your tree from construction paper or find a pretty branch from outside and add paper leaves. Makes a great centerpiece for Thanksgiving!
- Christmas – Add gratitude ornaments to a Christmas tree – either a physical tree or a construction paper tree.
- Gratitude Box or Jar. You can have each family member add something they are grateful for each day and read at dinner nightly or weekly. You can add your own prompts to help kids.
- Meditation – Find a quiet place where you can focus on things that you are grateful for. If you are not used to meditating, you can start with basic things such as breathing or nature and expand to other areas in your life.
- Expressing Gratitude with sticky notes. Expressing sincere gratitude to others makes them feel good. Using sticky notes can be fun as you post them to your kids’ doors, on the fridge, maybe on the mirror for your spouse or in the break room or bathroom at work.
- Express Gratitude for yourself as well. Give yourself grace for mistakes and missteps as nobody is perfect. A reframing of negative circumstances to see both the good and the bad and acknowledge your blessings is a great step forward.
Studies have shown that a consistent gratitude practice has incredible effects including improving our sleep and mental health as well as boosting our relationships. I hope these suggestions are helpful to get you started. However, if you need help getting started or feeling stuck in your life, schedule a complimentary call with me to see how I can help you.
It’s Never Too Late for the Life You Want.
4 thoughts on “How to Start a Gratitude Practice”
I started this year with a gratitude journal, but I fell out of it. I want to get back into it because I do miss journaling!
Awesome! Hopefully these tips will help motivate you!
This is a great idea! I get so focused on the urgent stuff right in front of me, and forget to take a step back and look at things in perspective and remember that gratitude is important. Thanks for sharing!
Absolutely! Taking a step back is so helpful!