Gratitude is a deep appreciation for something or someone in our lives. It can be as small as appreciating the warm sun on your face or as important as gratitude for health and family. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you connect with the positive emotion of feeling grateful. When you practice gratitude, try to really feel it in your body and allow the feeling to wash over you. The deeper you connect with it, the more benefit it will have.
Why is gratitude important?
First, from a mindset perspective, what we focus on most often determines our emotional state. So if you focus more on what you are grateful for, versus what you feel you are lacking or is going wrong, you are more likely to feel better. Also, gratitude improves feelings of hope and optimism, which allows you to more easily seek out positive solutions. When we focus on the negative, we see more negativity around us. Probably most significantly, research has shown that a regular gratitude practice can have physical benefits such as improved mood, better sleep and even reduce inflammation, to name a few.
Feeling grateful does not negate or minimize the difficulties you may be enduring, but it does help to maintain perspective and not lose hope for a better tomorrow. Even in our darkest times, there is always some small thing to be grateful for and that tiny ray of hope can help to get you through.
Five ways to practice gratitude
Like any skill, gratitude can be learned and strengthened. Here are some tips on how to practice gratitude.
- Each day, think of three things you’re thankful for. Make it a daily habit to visualize what’s good in your life. This can directly impact your mood throughout the day, as well as your sleep quality. In fact, research suggests this may be a useful tool when initiating treatment against depression. To make it more powerful, it is advised to devote at least ten minutes to this practice, rather than quickly coming up with ideas. Writing down these three things you are thankful for is a great way to complete this exercise, and it is useful to come back and read them at the end of the week.
- Start a gratitude journal. Journaling can be an excellent self-therapy technique. When you write, you use different parts of your brain and access memories and emotions from a new perspective. A gratitude journal has been proven to activate brain areas that are related to morality and positive emotions. People who could find purpose and feel grateful for the good things to come out of a challenging situation show higher resilience, forgiveness, and detachment. Reading your own words of gratefulness can help you feel better when struggling to be positive.
- Thank someone new every week. There are many people around us, and we are all connected somehow. How often do we take the time to express gratitude more consciously or thoughtfully? We might say thank you to the person who assists us at the supermarket checkout or thank our partner for setting the table, but do we take the time to make it meaningful? Give yourself the purpose of choosing someone new each week and learn how to express gratitude differently. This could mean adopting a more conscious non-verbal communication (like eye contact and a smile), writing a thoughtful message acknowledging others’ behaviour and its positive effects on you, or saying thank you with a nice gift or gesture (like a shoulder massage).
- Meditate. When it comes to gratitude, meditation can take us as deep as it gets. Different guided meditations allow us to widen our perspective of life and our connection to ourselves and other beings. Meditation can promote acceptance, detachment, forgiveness, and thus, gratitude. We can also take this moment to imagine a specific situation we are grateful for and let the feeling grow and become stronger.
- Focus more on others’ intentions. When you receive a gift or a nice gesture from someone, consider how they intended to bring good into your life. Take a moment to visualise their willingness to help you, make you feel happy, or be there for you during a challenging time.