Check your assumptions about gratitude at the door. If you think there’s a lot of hype over gratitude practice, there’s a reason for it.
What you gain from practicing gratitude is real and certainly worthwhile. Gratefulness may seem cliche, but it works.
Let’s talk about why a little gratitude goes a long way.
Benefits of a Gratitude Practice
At first glance, an act of gratitude may seem like it only benefits the recipient. But the truth is the giver sees just as much benefit, if not more.
Practicing gratitude leads to increased happiness and well-being for the benefactor. Research has shown physiological advantages related to gratitude, including a strengthened immune system and lowered blood pressure.
When you’re grateful, you boost your social ties as well. Gratitude helps you build and strengthen relationships, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Additionally, practicing gratitude decreases your feelings of want. When you recognize and are thankful for what you already have, you’re less likely to crave something new to fill a void. This leads you to have increased feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Now that I’ve convinced you that you need a gratitude practice, where can you get started?
Gratitude Practice in Action
There are many ways to start a gratitude practice in your own life. Try one or two of these ideas and see what works best for you. Or come up with something completely different!
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the easiest ways to get started with a gratitude practice.
It’s simple. Keep a notebook on your bedside table or in another place where you typically sit to unwind. At the end of each day, write down three things you are thankful for that day.
The act of physically writing down what you’re grateful for helps to solidify it in your mind. And when you’ve built up a log of things you’re thankful for, you can refer back to your notebook on a day that you’re feeling low.
Send Thank You Notes
A gratitude journal is great for tracking the things you’re thankful for each day, but why keep that information to yourself?
Create a daily practice of sending a quick note or email (or text, Facebook message, etc.) to one person each day. You can thank them for just about anything!
Did your spouse remember to take out the trash without prompting? Did your co-worker share their afternoon snack with you? Send a thank you to show you appreciate them.
You can even send a note of gratitude for no reason at all! Write an email to a friend you haven’t seen in a while to let them know you miss them and value their friendship. Wouldn’t you love to get a note like that?
Mindfulness / Savoring
To practice gratitude for the things you already have, take time to enjoy them in the moment.
You can do this through mindfulness or savoring. It’s as easy as taking a brief pause to acknowledge your gratitude.
When you get dressed in the morning, pause to notice when you put on an item of clothing you love. (Or that you were excited to buy… however long ago that was.)
When eating dessert or your favorite snack, savor it. Pay attention to the act of eating and you’ll enjoy it even more.
It may feel odd at first to savor that bowl of cereal you typically wolf down before work. But with time you’ll realize it’s easy to find things you’re grateful for throughout the day.
Mindfulness is something you can practice anywhere, anytime.
Focus on People
To supercharge the benefits of a gratitude practice, focus on people rather than things.
Of course it’s important to be grateful for material items you’re (hashtag) blessed with. But social ties pack the biggest punch when it comes to increasing happiness.
Find every opportunity to show your gratitude for others. You’ll strengthen your relationships and boost life satisfaction. For yourself and the other person.
To be the most effective, be specific when giving thanks. Tell someone exactly why you appreciate them. It goes much farther than a generic “thank you.”
Don’t forget to show yourself some love!
When is the last time you took a moment to be thankful for YOU? Your inner critic is generally the loudest voice talking to you at any given time. It’s easy to let it be the only voice you listen to.
I learned a trick from Rolf Gates that I like to call “self-gratitude.”
In his book Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion, Rolf shares a mantra he uses to create contentment.
He first used the practice when attending twelve-step meetings. But he quickly expanded it to all parts of his life.
Simply enough, he says to himself, “Thank you for bringing me here.”
This statement is plain yet powerful. I challenge you to give it a try.
The next time you step into the gym for a workout, thank yourself. When you cook a homemade meal instead of getting fast food, thank yourself. As you sit down to read or do something productive rather than turning on the TV, thank yourself.
As I write this post, I am pausing to say, “Thank you for bringing me here.”
Maintaining the Practice
There are some things to keep in mind when beginning a gratitude practice if you want to make it a long-term habit:
Commit. Right off the bat, it’s crucial to invest in the process if you want to reap the benefits.
Make it a habit. Practice gratitude daily and it will become second-nature.
Keep it fresh. Make a point to notice new things to be thankful for. Try different methods so you don’t get bored. If the practice becomes mundane you’re less likely to stick with it.
Find what works. Not all these tricks will work for you. Give each one a try… if it’s a good fit, stick with it. If not, move on to the next one.
Use an accountability partner. Team up with a friend to increase your chances of success. Accountability partners are a great way to keep you on the right track.
The best way to start a new practice is to start. Choose a strategy and start implementing it today!
Want to keep the gratitude juices flowing? Get FREE access to the Gratitude Journal Prompts workbook when you join the Self-Worthy Community!