As we come up on Thanksgiving, we’ll hear much more about “gratitude” and “being thankful.” Around the dinner table, it might be easy to come up with things we are grateful for, from the food in front of us to the roof over our heads.
But gratitude is proven highly beneficial as a daily practice, not just something we save for Thanksgiving.
With a consistent gratitude practice, we can see significant and lasting positive change in our relationships, health, happiness, and ability to be resilient.
In this post, you’ll learn how to practice gratitude, even in the most challenging times when it’s often most difficult to be thankful.
The Science of Gratitude
Positive psychology research shows the multitude of benefits of practicing gratitude, including:
- Increased happiness
- Decreased stress
- Decreased depression and anxiety
- Greater sense of connection
- More positive emotions
- Improved health
- Greater resilience
- Stronger relationships
- Better self-awareness
- More compassion and empathy
- Increased optimism
- Increased motivation to exercise
- Fewer doctor visits
An excellent summary of the most recent research on gratitude is available here.
How to Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude, from saying a simple thank you to going outdoors, rooting your feet in the soil, closing your eyes, and giving thanks for all creation.
Here we’ll focus on two gratitude practices my clients have loved over the past three decades.
Journaling daily is excellent for stress relief, quieting the mind, practicing gratitude, and more. Journal pages can be a place to process emotions, decisions, and experiences and can even be a place to express creatively and freely without restriction or judgment.
Try journaling every morning for at least five minutes. Start by making a list of what you are grateful for, no matter how small. Then, you can expand on why you are grateful for those things, experiences, and people and go on to share their impact on you.
Sometimes, we can even be grateful for past challenges and hardships because they made us stronger or opened the door to something better. So, if you’re having trouble getting started, start with the small things, like a sunny day or a hot cup of coffee on your desk, and go from there.
When you regularly acknowledge the things you are grateful for, joy and appreciation will become second nature. It is challenging to be thankful in adversity, but that is when we need this practice the most. Even when things get tough, you may notice that this helps you put things into perspective and tackle challenges with greater ease and a better attitude.
Meditation is the practice of mindfulness for heightened awareness. It requires focusing on a particular object, thought, or activity without judgment and with complete presence. It doesn’t require you to sit in the typical yogic pose to do it effectively. Some people prefer walking or other forms of activities to ease the mind.
Sit or lay down in a comfortable position where you won’t be distracted for at least five minutes. Next, take three deep breaths where you focus on inhaling slowly by filling the belly first. Then, hold your breath briefly and exhale, allowing your chest and stomach to deflate into complete relaxation.
Then, reflect on how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come to get to where you are today. You’re here now, reading this post to continue improving your mental health and life through all the challenges, hardships, and successes.
This is self-love. This is self-care. And this is an incredible gift to yourself.
Allow yourself to feel deep gratitude for YOU.
Take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel gratitude, that heart-swelling, soul-filling warmth radiating from the inside out.
Meditate, soak in that feeling for as long as possible, and practice this meditation often. Soon, this feeling of gratitude will be committed to memory and more easily accessible at any time for yourself and others. You can also try this meditation outdoors, in front of the mirror, or while taking a walk,
If you’d like to take your gratitude practice even further — and experience less stress, more joy, and stronger relationships — take the free Less Stress Now challenge!