“When we practice gratitude, our emotional wellbeing is focused on positive outlooks, which encourages a resilient psychological perspective and gives a feeling of happiness and contentment,” explains Kristin Larsen, a transformational health coach and author of Joy of Being, a reflection journal workbook that helps others be present in their lives, while seeing joy each day.
Alexander Burgemeester, a neuropsychologist and founder of The Narcissistic Life, adds that gratitude is one of the best feelings you can have. “It feels good to be thankful for those around you, and for the small things in life,” he says. Being grateful, he adds, can help you to not be so resentful and may allow your brain to be more positive overall. This is because gratitude has been connected to releases of dopamine in the brain, the neurotransmitter that gives us that happy feeling. “Practicing gratitude in your everyday life can help you not only feel better, but overtime can help you to think more positively instead of negatively towards everything around you,” Burgemeester says.
Ready to focus on feeling more grateful? Here are some easy exercises to try:
Write gratitude letters
Did someone buy you a thoughtful gift or help you out in a special way? Buy them a card or write them a letter to say thank you. Many people love receiving physical mail, which is so rare in today’s digital age. A thank you card is a quick and easy way to express your appreciation for someone else. And some studies have suggested that the act of writing the letter itself can lift one’s spirits and help put the writer in a better mood. Buy some cards and keep them in your desk drawer or keep some personalized stationery handy so that you can draft a letter whenever you have someone you’d like to thank.
Keep a gratitude journal
Purchase a fun journal that makes you smile. Research shows that writing down what you are grateful for can potentially help you feel happier. Every night before bed, pick up a pen and jot down three to five things that you are thankful for at the moment. This could include things that happened throughout the day, people in your life, pets or things. Examples could include: “I’m grateful for the lovely lunch that I had today with my next-door neighbor,” “My cat brings me so much happiness” or “I am grateful for the amazing chat I had with my daughter today on the phone.” If you’re feeling blue, flip through your previous days’ journal entries for an instant pick me up.
Use a gratitude app
If writing in a journal is not your thing, download a gratitude app on your tablet or smartphone. These apps have spaces and prompts to help you record things that you are thankful for. Here are a few free ones to try:
Start your morning with gratitude
Larsen suggests thinking of three things you are grateful for first thing in the morning. You can do this even before climbing out of bed. This, he says, can really help to set the tone for the day so that you start off on a positive note.
Share your gratitude for the ones you love
“Another really great practice is to share with your spouse or your children at the end of the day, three ways you appreciate them for their actions or for simply being who they are throughout that day,” says Heather Placken, a certified Happy For No Reason Trainer in Ontario. You could tell your spouse that you appreciated how he or she made you dinner last night or thank your child for driving you to your recent doctor’s appointment, for instance.
Choose a gratitude theme for the day
“You can choose water to be your theme for example,” says Placken. So every time you wash your hands, do dishes, water plants, take a shower/bath, get a drink, brush your teeth or flush the toilet, for the day, notice and appreciate the water, its uses and how it makes your life easier and provides value to your existence. “This encourages you to be present in the moment and to be purely grateful for having the luxury of water in your life,” Placken adds. The next day, choose a different theme to focus on. Maybe that’s food. So every time you cook, eat or think about recipes, express your gratitude for everything and everyone involved in bringing your meal to your table, from the farmers to the soil to the truckers who delivered your vegetables.
Practice makes perfect
They call it a “gratitude practice” for a reason. According to James Clear, a habits, decision making and continuous improving expert, studies indicate it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit. Start small and find ways to work more gratitude into your day, whether that’s saying “thank you” more often, writing it down or shifting negative thoughts to those of gratitude. As the days go by, this will likely become more of a regular part of your day. If you miss a day, don’t worry. Try again tomorrow. Eventually, you’ll find gratitude becoming more of a standard expression in your life.
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