Especially within the wellness community, you’ll hear the word gratitude thrown around often but actually incorporating a practice of gratitude into your daily life can feel tricky. Let’s demystify practicing gratitude together, and set an intention to actively pursue it this week (and hopefully each week moving forward).
Gratitude is a supportive and healing emotion strongly linked to positive mental and physical health and life satisfaction. When you are actively feeling grateful for the little and big things in life, you will experience more joy, love, and enthusiasm and reduce your risk for depression, anxiety, and even disordered sleep. A 2003 study called Counting blessings versus burdens found that keeping a gratitude journal cause participants 16% fewer negative physical symptoms, 19% more time spent exercising, 10% less physical pain, and 25% increased sleep quality. Luckily, gratitude is a virtue you can cultivate and grow with practice, and here are a few ways to start doing just that.
You can be grateful for an array of things in life - whether tiny like a delicious recipe your friend emailed you, or giant like a life changing promotion and salary raise at work. It’s tough, but sometimes you may even associate a difficult situation in life and find gratitude in the challenge. Maybe your parent has suffered an illness that was physically and emotionally taxing on your life, but it gave you the chance to spend quality time together talking, learning, healing, and reminiscing. Taking stock of what’s happening in your life and identifying what aspects of that you are thankful for is key to beginning a practice of gratitude.
Write it Down
I like to find time once a day, just five to ten minutes works, to sit and think through five things I am grateful for. Once you’ve starting paying attention and identifying what you’re thankful for, it’s time to break out your journal or the Notes app on your phone, and write it down. While writing down your list of five things, try to give specific details and also take stock of how this gratitude feels in your body. Where do you feel it? Are you comfortable with the feeling of gratitude, and do you feel that you deserve it? I like to write those associated emotions down as well to refer back to later. You’ll find that your ideas and sensations may change as you make this practice part of your personal routine, and your gratitude can deepen as you focus on new aspects of your life daily.
That awesome recipe that your girlfriend sent you? Text her a picture of your delicious meal and thank her! Is your new job at work going great? Treat your team to coffee and share the love. Verbal and physical affirmations to those around you make them feel good, and they’re secretly a version of enlightened self interest. Basically, your nice action makes you feel good too and it has a lasting positive effect on your mood.
I have to say, there are tons of pros and not a single con I can think of when it comes to noticing the things you are grateful for, writing them down, and thanking those around you to express your gratitude. This week, I challenge you to start a gratitude practice (or grow yours) and see if you feel more optimistic and energized. I bet you will, and then maybe you’ll be thanking me!