How often do you stop to appreciate the good things in your life?
The things that went well, the people who made you smile, or the food that tasted delicious?
It’s often those little things, the simple things, the funny things that slip right by. It can be all too easy to focus on what’s not going well in our day that we miss all the good stuff that’s right there in front of us.
Why? Well, we’re wired that way.
It’s called the negativity bias, and while this may have been useful thousands of years ago when our primary concern was staying alive, today it doesn’t do us any favors.
It stops us from seeing the good stuff right in front of us, no matter how much good there is to be seen.
However, there is a scientifically proven way to overcome this negativity bias. It’s by intentionally practising gratitude.
Over the years gratitude practice has been heavily researched and validated.
Gratitude has been hailed as one of the most universally effective mindset boosters and happiness enhancers on the planet.– Jonathan Fields, How to Live a Good Life
Gratitude isn’t about ignoring or avoiding your problems or challenges. It’s about giving you a more balanced perspective on life.
So how would taking the time to intentionally practice gratitude improve your life?
Studies show that people who practice gratitude
- are happier
- are healthier
- exercise more frequently
- sleep better
- are more resilient
- are more optimistic
- cultivate deeper relationships with friends, family and partners
- are less envious
- are less materialistic
- have a greater ability to focus on and make progress towards achieving their goals
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
There’s no doubt that developing a gratitude practice is one of the best habits you can adopt to improve your mental and physical well-being!
10 ways to practice gratitude
1. Gratitude Journal
Begin a dedicated Gratitude Journal to write about or list one or more things in your day that you are grateful for. Alternatively, record a gratitude entry or create a gratitude list in your current planner or bullet journal.
Challenge yourself to come up with new things to be grateful for – try not to repeat the same things over the course of a week, or a month for example.
This will help you look more deeply and find appreciation in the small things you may not have noticed (like hot water on tap, or your cosy slippers…)
When it comes to how often to write in your journal or add to your list, find a routine that works for you.
You might like to do it daily, in which case it makes sense to incorporate it into your morning or evening routine. Or you might prefer to do it once or twice a week.
2. Write a Thank-You Card or Letter
Write a thank-you letter, card, or email to someone who has had an impact on your life, or someone who went out of their way to help you.
3. Gratitude Visit
Go one step further with your thank-you letter or card and actually go and visit that person. Take your card or letter with you and read it aloud to them.
4. Gratitude App
A great alternative to pen-and-paper journaling is a gratitude app. One advantage of using an app is that you get set up reminders and prompts.
A few to check out include:
5. Gratitude Cards
Gratitude cards such as these from The School of Life are a great way to remind ourselves that no matter what’s going on in our life, there is always something to be grateful for.
6. Gratitude Conversation
Next time you’re gathered with friends or family, take it in turns to go around the table and share something that you are grateful for.
You don’t need to stick to the standard “what are you grateful for today” question. You can also try
- “What made you laugh today?”
- “What was your favourite thing about today?”
- “Who did something kind for you today?” or
- “Who did you enjoy spending time with today?”
7. Gratitude Walk
Take a walk around your neighbourhood or local park.
What can you see on your walk that you are grateful for? What’s beautiful? What makes your life more pleasant, or easier?
It’s so easy to take our local environment for granted, but when you get out there are really see it, you’ll find plenty of things to be grateful for.
8. Gratitude Jar
This is a great activity to do at the beginning of a new year, or maybe on your birthday.
Write down things you are grateful for on a piece of paper and put them in the jar. Keeping adding to your jar throughout the year.
On New Years Day (or your birthday) empty the jar and read about all the things that were good in your life over the past year.
9. Gratitude Photos
Challenge yourself to take a photo of the things that you are grateful for in your life.
Perhaps you could take a photo every day for a week, or a month?
These could be the little things that make you smile, the people you love, the things that make you feel safe or secure, or the things that make your life easier.
It could be anything from your dishwasher, flowers blooming, or the neighbourhood coffee shop.
Create an album with your gratitude photos (either print or online) that you can look back at to remind you of all the things, big and small in your life that you are grateful for.
10. Gratitude Meditation
If you like to meditate, try a gratitude meditation, where you focus your awareness on the things that you appreciate and are grateful for in your life.
The meditation app I use, Insight Timer has several lovely guided gratitude meditations.
So there you have it, 10 ways to intentionally practice gratitude. Why not try some and see which of these activities suit you best?
Remember, gratitude isn’t about ignoring or avoiding your problems or challenges.
It’s about giving you a more balanced perspective on life.
When you’re feeling down, or like nothing is going right, your gratitude practice will remind you that things are not as bad as you think.
Another bonus of having a gratitude practice is that it will help you to create more good things in your day.
Simply knowing that you are going to write or reflect on it later will encourage you to do things that make you happy.
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.—Oprah Winfrey