As the fall season leads us into the holidays and we begin making plans for Thanksgiving, we start to think more about our gratitude practice. It’s great to gather together as family and friends to talk about the things we’re thankful for over a tasty meal.
But being grateful isn’t just for the holidays. Research shows that it’s beneficial to develop a gratitude practice that goes all year round. Aside from Thanksgiving gratitude traditions with your family, there are simple things you can do every day that will make your life feel more fulfilling and meaningful.
Gratitude Practice Benefits
How does gratitude impact and benefit your life? Science shows us that by feeling more grateful we can reduce depression and anxiety, bond more deeply with our friends and family, increase our mental and physical health, and do better in our careers. Something that seems so simple as counting our blessings can have a huge impact on our lives.
So how do you get started? What does a gratitude practice even look like? Here are some simple ways to get going with a daily gratitude practice.
1. Keep a daily gratitude journal.
Maybe you’re already a daily journal-er or you’d really like to be. Either way, incorporating gratitude into your journal writing is a great way to work on your mindset. It doesn’t have to be long, elaborate, or complicated. Just making a short list of the things you’re feeling thankful for that day will do the trick. If you make it simple you’ll be more likely to do it daily, so do what works best for you.
2. Go on regular gratitude walks.
If you love being outside, especially in nature, this practice is perfect for you. Go to your favorite place to walk or pick somewhere new. Shoot for at least a 20-minute walk, but fit in whatever you have time for. As you walk, try to clear your mind and notice each and everything you see. Take in the grass, the leaves, the wildlife. Notice the smells, the feeling of the air on your skin, the sun or rain. As you notice and feel each thing, say thank you and build up the feeling of a profound sense of gratefulness for being alive.
3. Use your meditation time to focus on gratitude.
If you’ve already created a daily mindfulness practice, this is a great way to expand and compound its effects. If you’re not already a meditation practitioner, starting with gratitude is an excellent place to get going. While your mind is calm and relaxed, focus in on feelings of gratitude. You can attach this feeling to a person, place, or thing, or just simply imagine the feeling and let it grow. Even just 5 minutes of this practice will calm your mind, deepen your life satisfaction, and make you more productive and energetic throughout the day. For an extra mood boost, do this several times a day when you need a mental break or a positive lift.
4. Practice telling others about your gratitude.
Cultivating a gratitude practice is great for your wellbeing, but when you share it you get to influence others’ well-being too. You can do this in many ways, so pick what works best for you. Some people write letters to others telling them how much they appreciate all that they do and are. You can choose to send the letter through the mail or email, hand deliver it, or even read it aloud to the person. By sharing your gratitude, you can deepen your relationships, heal past wounds, and inspire others to incorporate more gratitude practice into their lives as well.
5. Use a special object to remind yourself to be grateful.
Some people have a lot of success with this method. Find a small object, such as a special rock or a token from someone you care about, and either carry it or place it somewhere where you’ll see it regularly. Make it a habit to think of something you’re grateful for every time you look at the object. You could even turn it into a game where you move it around your home or office so you notice it more often and at random moments when you need a positive boost.
6. Pause for a gratitude moment before eating.
If you come from a religious background, you probably are familiar with the tradition of giving thanks before eating a meal. But this practice doesn’t have to be inherently religious if that doesn’t work for you. Whatever your beliefs, it can be a really beautiful thing to take the time before diving into a delicious meal to appreciate the hard work that went into growing the food, transporting the food, preparing the food, and the life energy of the food itself. This kind of gratitude practice allows you to notice the simple, yet important aspects of life and feel grateful for the experiences that make up your world.
Things to Consider in Your Gratitude Practice
Choose the specific activities that you know you will do on a regular basis. Don’t choose something simply because you think you “should” do it or it will never become a natural habit. Make your beginning practice easy and doable so that it can become a permanent part of your daily routine. Dedicate 5 minutes of your day at first, then build on that. If you forget one day, don’t get upset. Just start again.
Not sure which activity you’ll enjoy? Give them all a try. Research more, if you like, until you find the perfect combination of activities that will bring more gratitude into your life. Keep it simple, so that you can tap into the profound. Share your practice with your friends and family, if you feel comfortable. If you have kids or care for kids, take the time to teach them about gratitude so they can get a head start in living a positive, abundant life. The more you feel gratitude, the more you’ll spread it to others. The practice of gratitude truly has the power to change the world.