4 Small Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day

Now seems like as good a time as any, right?

You probably have a general inkling that gratitude is good—and that having a gratitude practice might be good for you. Maybe you’ve even considered starting a gratitude journal. What you’re likely not as familiar with is the impressive body of research suggesting gratitude—as an emotional experience, a character trait, and a practice—is associated with a wide array of improvements in mental health and well-being. Research shows that people who already experience overall higher levels of gratitude in their lives—as a character trait or lens they see world through—tend to score higher on various measures of mental health, neuroscientist, writer, and coach Alex Korb, Ph.D., tells SELF.

For instance, a 2010 meta-review published in Clinical Psychology Review found that people who have higher levels of trait gratitude are also likely to experience less depression, greater well-being, and more social support, among other things. Importantly, there is also research suggesting that gratitude practices can lead to real, measurable benefits for our mental health.

A 2017 series of meta-analyses published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology looked at 38 gratitude intervention studies, where researchers have some number of people regularly practice gratitude in some form (like journaling) and compare them to people in control groups (who are assigned to no intervention or a neutral one, like journaling about daily activities). They found that the people who practiced gratitude had “evident differences” in many self-reported measures of mental health and well-being, like happiness, life satisfaction, grateful mood, grateful disposition, positive affect, depression, optimism, and quality of relationships.

Plus, an emerging body of research demonstrates that gratitude (as a trait and a practice) may be particularly helpful for people who have experienced serious traumas, like natural disasters and combat—suggesting that now might be a particularly ripe time for incorporating more gratitude into your life. (For a detailed review of these studies and what else the research tells us about the healing powers of gratitude, check out this piece. )

Knowing that science supports the idea that gratitude is good for us is one thing. But let’s be real: Sometimes actually integrating the practices we know are good for us into our lives is easier said than done, especially when you’re in a low-energy or high-anxiety place. (Which, hello, is right now!) “The message that I try to get out though is that even when things look really bleak, it is possible to have moments of positive emotion like gratitude that can help sustain you and help you cope better with whatever you’re dealing with,” social psychologist Judy Moskowitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of medical social sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, and president of the International Positive Psychology Association, tells SELF.

The really the nice thing about gratitude is that it’s incredibly low-effort, and the barrier to entry is nonexistent. There’s no special technique to learn and no serious time investment. “Cultivating gratitude can start tomorrow,” Robin Stern, Ph.D., the cofounder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale, tells SELF.

Try one or more of the following practices for a few weeks, and see how it makes you feel.

1. Start by just thinking about it once a day

“Take some time every day, a few moments, to reflect on what you’re grateful for,” Moskowitz recommends. The easiest way to build this into your day? Reflect while you’re doing a chore or routine that you do every day. Making your bed in the morning, unloading the dishwasher, washing your face at night—these little activities can double as the time you intentionally savor the things you are grateful for. That way it becomes habitual and doesn’t require any rearranging of your day.

A minimum of three things is a great place to start, Moskowitz says, and “they don’t have to be brand new every day.” You might use ones like your health, your spouse, or your pet over and over again. They can also be seemingly trivial, Moskowitz adds—as small and simple as the fact that the sun is out or your coffee tastes good.

2. Keep a gratitude journal

As the most-studied intervention, keeping a gratitude journal is a great idea, Korb says. “This is just directing your attention to three or five things that happened that day, or parts of your life that you’re grateful for, and writing them down.”

It’s better to take a few moments to really reflect on these little gifts, cognitive psychologist Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, tells SELF, instead of rushing to jot them down like a grocery list. She also recommends including people, or considering how a person might be the source or reason behind one of the things on your list.

You can do it a couple of times a week or every day, Stern says. Try keeping a journal next to your bed to use in the morning or at night. While you can definitely keep it simple, if you do want to get more serious about gratitude journaling, the Greater Good Science Center has more tips here.

3. Tell people thank you, verbally or in writing

This one is a great addition to reflection or journaling because it brings in the social connectedness element of gratitude. “Start saying thank you to people more often, and in a particular way,” Simon-Thomas says. The recipient can be anyone—a best friend, a spouse, a barista, a coworker, a sibling—but it’s more than saying “Thanks!”

The most effective expressions of gratitude—the ones that make both the thanker and the thanked feel good—hit three things, Simon-Thomas says. Here are the three main elements of a super-effective expression of gratitude:

  • Describe what the person did
  • Acknowledge the effort that the person put in, including if they sacrificed or forewent something
  • Describe how it benefited you

“When we do this more in-depth, reflective, and specific-to-the-person kind of gratitude expression, the feelings tend to be much stronger,” Simon-Thomas says. “We feel more warm, [and] the other person feels more recognized and validated. And that sense of bonding, of interdependence and mutual support, is more robust when we…deliberately highlight those elements.”

4. Keep at it—it gets easier

Know that practicing gratitude may not feel particularly natural or good at first—it may feel a little forced or effortful. “Some people, especially when they start [practicing gratitude], it doesn’t necessarily feel that good in the moment,” Korb adds.

But it’s totally okay if it feels weird or you’re not welling up with warm and fuzzy feelings. Korb likens it to getting in shape with physical exercise: It might not make you feel good in the moment, but that doesn’t mean you’re not accruing benefits in the background that become more apparent over time. And, like exercise, it gets easier. “Over time it doesn’t continue to take as much effort,” Korb says.

Even as a longtime practitioner, “some days it’s easier than others,” Mostkowitz says. “You might feel sometimes like you have to dig really deep.” It’s all part of the practice. As Simon-Thomas puts it, “We have the opportunity with those little moments in daily life to either relate to them in a grateful way or not.”

If you are tired of feeling stuck in life and want a little kick in the ass to get your shit together, book a FREE 1:1 COACHING Session with me here! It’s only available for a limited time, so book today.

Originally Posted here by Carolyn L. Todd

About the author: TheFounder
As you can see I am the founder of Avantribe. I created this for others to help themselves grow and care for themselves on this journey we call life. I'm passionate about personal development mentally, physically, and emotionally. We typically have a hard enough time juggling one of those things. Luckily, we are in the information age and are so fortunate to have this kind of knowledge at our fingertips. 💜

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