The title of today’s article is definitely intentional. Being grateful and living in gratitude takes practice. But it’s an incredibly important, beneficial, and worthwhile practice to have.
With Thanksgiving this week and more festive celebrations right around the corner, I want to take a moment to encourage you to enter this season from a space of Gratitude.
Why? Well, simply put, it is probably the single most important thing you can do for your happiness, health, and relationships!
Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude is your emotion that relates to your ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation.
Research shows that your thoughts have the incredible power to shape your brain. The more conscious you are about perceiving an experience as being positive the more this will generalize to other parts of your brain and ultimately improve your overall sense of well-being and happiness.
In doing research for this article, I came across a post by Amit Amin at The Happier Human; don’t you just love the name of his site? He did an immense amount of research to compile all the benefits of gratitude. It’s such a wonderful summary that I’ve shared his graphic below.
I think we can all agree that that is A LOT of benefits!! And honestly, who wouldn’t want all of those things, right?! I know that I do.
Understanding the importance of gratitude is one thing but in order to really manifest all those benefits you need to have a practice of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to take much time or effort to have a big impact in your life BUT you do need to implement strategies to actually make it a part of your life. Here are some ways you can do this.
1. Gratitude Journal
Just 5 minutes a day can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10%. And according to research by Dr. Emmons at UC Davis, people who kept a gratitude journal for just 3 weeks measured 25% higher on life satisfaction, which apparently lasted for several months even after the study was completed.
So how do you keep a gratitude journal? It doesn’t have to be complicated. At the end of each day list 3-5 positive experiences from the day that made you feel grateful. Expand in detail on at least one of them; etching the experience into your memory.
You will be surprised at how this simple act will make you more aware of positive aspects of your day and actually begin to shift things so you are seeking out more positive experiences.
2. Show Appreciation
Feeling grateful is one thing but acting on that gratitude by showing appreciation is an incredibly powerful act. One of the best ways to do this is to start saying thank you more and sending little notes (even emails) of appreciation to people, thanking them for something specific or even just being in your life.
You could take this act even farther by thinking of 5 people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing your gratitude and appreciation for all the gifts you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your letter in person.
We all crave appreciation and recognition. In studies of people who have practiced this form of gratitude, the recipient of the letter often had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude.
3. Take A Gratitude Walk
This is one of my personal favorites and is particularly useful when you’re feeling down or filled with stress and worry. Set aside as much time as you can get away with (at least 10 minutes but the longer the better) and go for a walk; in your neighborhood, around the block at work, through a park, or somewhere in nature is ideal.
As you walk, consider all the things you are grateful for; nurturing relationships, a body that allows you to go for a walk, the fresh air that is filling your lungs, the beauty around you that you are able to see. If dark or negative thoughts pop up, simply notice them, take a deep breath, and return to the moment. Notice everything that you see, hear, feel, or smell, and take note of how many things you can be grateful for.
This is a powerful tool to shift your mood and open yourself to the abundance that is right in front of you.
4. Add A Gratitude Meditation
If you already have a meditation practice, I encourage you to add this one into the rotation. And if you’re new to meditation, give it a try and see how it feels.
Start by getting into a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and relaxing your body. Take several deep belly breaths to help relax your body and your mind. Then ask the question “what am I truly grateful for”.
Take whatever comes to mind first and build on that thought. Expand on the story of this positive experience or memory and try to visualize it. Keep the experience in your mind as long as possible, breathing into it and allowing it to sink in and embed positivity into your brain.
With each gratitude meditation you will begin to build a repertoire of positive experiences that overtime will shape and transform your brain.
Take Home Message
If you want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly an essential quality to cultivate. It opens your heart (and brain) and can move you from limitation and fear to expansion and love. When you appreciate something, your ego moves out of the way allowing you to connect with your soul and flow in harmony with the universe.
The universal law of attraction says that you will attract into your life the things you think about and focus on. When you are consciously aware of your blessings, and are grateful for them, you are focusing more clearly on what you do want in your life and, ultimately, are attracting more of those things into your life.
Even just starting your day with a thought of what you are most grateful for can set the intention and begin to transform the way you see and move through the world.