Practicing gratitude means actively recognizing and appreciating everything you are thankful for in your life. Doing this can help you feel content and positive, and can improve your emotional health and the quality of your relationships. It is also thought that practicing gratitude can help you become more empathetic and understanding towards others. These five practices will help you to start making gratitude part of your daily routine.
Find a pretty box or empty jar. Every night, write down one thing you were grateful for during the day. It may be a big, unique thing, such as a great vacation or day out. Most days, it’s likely to be something smaller, like getting half an hour to yourself, getting a text from a friend or eating your favorite food for dinner. At the end of every month, take out the statements and read through them. Pick out the ones that make you feel happiest and stick them in a notebook or on a poster. Any day where you struggle to find one thing to be grateful for, empty the jar and read statements until you can think of something to write.
Say Thank You
Saying thank you might sound like an obvious thing to do, but people often forget to thank people in their lives for behaviors that become routine. Think about three people in your life who are important to you. For each person, find one thing you are grateful for that you would not normally mention. It might be your husband’s positive attitude, or a friend committing to plans and never letting you down. Make a point of thanking these three people next time you see them. Being openly grateful for things that are usually overlooked can improve your relationships with friends and family members.
Turn a Situation Around
Throughout any day there are likely to be several stressful events that you do not want to deal with. An uncomfortable meeting with your boss, having to organize your finances, having to do a pile of dirty dishes or trying to bathe a stroppy toddler are all examples of unavoidable stressors that can accumulate and make you feel cynical about your life. Think about your day so far and identify one stressor that has made you feel this way. Write down three things about the situation that you are grateful for on a piece of paper. Say, for example, you woke up to a pile of dirty dishes when you just wanted to relax with a coffee before the bustle of the day. You could write something like: “I am grateful that I had food to eat last night,” “I am grateful that I have access to water in my house,” or “I am grateful that I share my home and don’t feel lonely.” You should not use this practice in situations that are abusive or unhealthy, as doing so can cause you to normalize unacceptable behaviors. Instead, use it to transform your attitude towards unavoidable, everyday stressors. You cannot make them go away, but you may be able to protect your emotions and feel more positive about your life.
Write Yourself a Love Letter
Write a letter thanking yourself for all the things you do to stay alive and healthy. Thank yourself for taking the time to eat, drink fluids, stay clean and practice self-care. Make the letter personal to you. You might thank yourself for keeping your hair clean and shiny or for taking time to remove your make up every evening to protect your skin. Thank yourself every time you eat a healthy meal or do something to improve your fitness. If you commit to a sleep routine, give yourself rest time to avoid burnout, eat fruit every day or allow yourself time to enjoy life and have fun, thank yourself for these things. Set a time each week to read this letter, for example before bed on a Sunday night. Over time, add any new things you do to keep yourself safe, healthy and happy.
Keep Reminders Before Your Eyes
Some days, it will be difficult to practice gratitude. “Bad days can be overwhelming and leave you feeling like there is nothing to be grateful for. Try displaying gratitude reminders around your home or office,” suggests Aneetra Alford, an insurance professional in Georgia who avidly studies and practices gratitude. You might put a photograph of your children on your bedroom door as a reminder that you are grateful to have them, even if they annoy and upset you sometimes. If you are frequently frustrated about the poor water pressure in your shower, print out a photograph of a landscape affected by drought to remind yourself to feel grateful that you have access to water. Try making a poster with quotes that inspire you to practice gratitude even when you do not feel like it. Keeping reminders before your eyes will help you stay focused and practice frequently, even when life becomes busy and distracting.
For the best impact on your happiness and well-being, try to set aside a time each day to practice and make it part of your routine, even on weekends. Vary what you do to keep practices interesting and enjoyable. Over time you might develop mantras that help you stay positive through recurring stressful events, or even find yourself practicing gratitude subconsciously. Through regular practice, you can transform your thoughts and attitudes towards life, and your outlook is likely to become more positive and relaxed.