Gratitude is more than just saying what you’re thankful for around the table at Thanksgiving. Practicing gratitude can be a way of life. Reflecting regularly on the things for which you are grateful can have several benefits. It can reduce stress and improve mental health. It can increase your happiness and your general enjoyment of life. It can give you a positive outlook that helps you embrace change and achieve your goals.
How do you develop a gratitude practice? It can start with just a few simple habits.
Keep a Journal
Getting caught in the cycle of everyday tasks can make you start to function like you're on autopilot. When this happens, it can become difficult to think about anything in your life as wonderful or even interesting. To combat this feeling, take a few minutes a day to jot down some things that you liked about your day. The things you mention don't have to be monumental events (although, of course, those count, too!). Finding a good parking spot or the excitement your dog exhibits when you walk through the door are moments worth noting and remembering.
When you first start your gratitude journal, you may have a hard time thinking of anything to write. This is a sign that your days are too full of distraction. Staying present in each moment can help you overcome that. Put your phone away during face-to-face conversations. Fight the urge to use headphones on your daily walk or run. Paying attention can help keep you from taking the people you love and the world around you for granted.
Gratitude is not about shutting out all negativity and focusing only on positive things. There is such a thing as a healthy balance, though. It's important to stay informed about what's going on in the world, and watching the news means you certainly will hear some negative messages. Being informed and becoming obsessed, however, are two different things. Give yourself a time limit on how long you will spend each day taking in the news as well as how long you will spend scrolling your social media feeds. You may be surprised how much your gratitude increases once you learn to stick to those limits.
Perhaps the easiest way to practice gratitude is to say it out loud. When someone does something nice for you, let them know that you appreciate them. If you have a little extra time, consider putting it in writing. You can get a small pack of thank-you notes so that you are ready whenever the opportunity to send handwritten thanks presents itself. When people at work help you out with a project, send an email to recognize their contributions, and consider copying in their supervisors. That way, your compliment can turn into praise from the person who is tasked with leading them.
As you list the things you're grateful for each day, you may notice that the kindness of others often shows up. Your coworker compliments your new haircut. Your children bring you pictures they drew at school. Your partner does the chore he or she knows you hate so that you don't have to do it. You can have the same effect on someone else's day, and this can be a fun way to express the newfound gratitude you feel. Paying it forward to someone else helps the world be a better place for everyone.
If you are frequently trapped in a negative outlook, the thought of changing your view may seem appealing but daunting. The truth, however, is that just a few small shifts in your everyday habits can make gratitude a big part of your worldview.