Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can improve your life in a variety of ways. Practicing gratitude can be transformative. People who regularly practice this positive habit are happier, more empathetic, and have higher self-esteem. Gratitude not only strengthens relationships, but it also promotes happiness, boosts mental well-being as well as your immune system.
Living a grateful life helps you notice the small victories, such as the bus arriving 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 adds up to form a web of happiness that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good things in your life. It is not difficult to increase your capacity for gratitude. It simply takes practice.
When you have a negative thought, try to look for the positive aspects of the situation. Make a weekly commitment to not complaining about anything. In general, the more you can direct your attention to what you are grateful for, the more things you will notice to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude is one of the most effective ways to rewire your brain for more joy and less stress. Here are some easy ways to cultivate gratitude:
Journaling your gratitude every day
Start a gratitude journal and create a daily practice of reminding yourself of the gifts, grace and good things that are present in your life. Consider the events of the day and write down at least five things for which you are grateful. Alternatively, you can have your gratitude list on your smartphone by downloading a gratitude journal app. Follow this routine on a daily basis, any time of the day, either in the morning or at bedtime, depending on what works best for you.
Gratitude exercise: gratitude jar
Throughout the day, consider at least three things for which you are grateful. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee at your favorite spot, or as grand as the love of your significant other or a close friend. Every day, write down what you are grateful for on small slips of paper and place them in the jar. Over time, you'll discover that you have a jar full of reasons to be grateful for what you have and to enjoy the life you're living. It will also encourage the practice of expressing gratitude. If you're feeling particularly down and would like to feel better, pull a few notes from the jar to remind yourself of what is good in your life.
Practice present-moment gratitude
As you go about your day, pause now and then to remember and think to yourself, "I am grateful." When it's difficult to find gratitude, pay attention to your senses. Slowing down and noticing what you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste invites you to cultivate thankfulness. It doesn't have to be anything special to practice gratitude—it could be as simple as being grateful for your morning coffee or a good book. Investigate this simple practice for appreciating the little things. Use your breath to help you stay in the present moment. Our minds are constantly drawn to busyness. As you lower your shoulders and turn your attention to gratitude, pay special attention to feeling the breath or something in your body.
Meditate in the morning
Gratitude can be incorporated into a morning meditation practice. You can either meditate on things for which you are grateful or on how you got to where you are now. Think about how far you've come since then. This contextualizes the present and allows you to see it clearly, allowing you to be grateful for what has brought you to this point. Morning is often the best time to practice gratitude meditation because it sets the tone for the day. It can also be beneficial to use your practice to unwind before going to bed.
Spend time with family and friends
If you're having trouble feeling grateful in the present moment, spend time with your friends and family. It will, of course, help you grow closer to them and strengthen your relationship, but it will also allow you to practice your acts of gratitude on people you care about. Also, next time your partner, friend, or family member does something you appreciate, make sure to express your gratitude to them.
Volunteering is an excellent way to cultivate gratitude. For many people, giving back to others in their community is the key to feeling more grateful. Not only will it make you more grateful for things you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering to help others increases our own well-being and thus our ability to be grateful. Choose a cause that is important to you and become a member of a local group or organization that supports it. You can express your gratitude by volunteering at a local food bank or at a homeless shelter.
In a nutshell
Practicing daily gratitude increases positive feelings while decreasing negative sentiments. Gratitude assists you in seeing the big picture and becoming more resilient in the face of adversity. The feeling of gratitude will rewire your brain to be more grateful naturally and you'll begin to feel happier after each session. It only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice for people's brain patterns to change, leading to increased empathy and happiness. Your brain is a powerful tool and training it to be grateful is all part of ensuring that it comes naturally as you practice, so what are you waiting for?