Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Something that has really helped me on my wellbeing journey and is well known as a practice for helping improve your state of mind is gratitude. Now, I know gratitude can sound a bit fluffy and weird but what is gratitude? Some people perceive it as just giving thanks but actually it’s more than that, as positive psychologists contend, gratitude is “more than feeling thankful for something, it is more like a deeper appreciation for someone (or something,) which produces longer lasting positivity. (https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-appreciation/)
So in terms of being able to “practice” gratitude” it’s really about focussing on the things you have and the things that you are thankful for, that give you positive emotions, rather than the things you don’t have or that you don’t like about your life that result in negative emotions. This simple way of thinking and feeling can impact your whole outlook as well as having many other positive benefits. For example, gratitude has been show too:
Help you make friends. A study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek a more lasting relationship with you.
Improve your physical health. People who show gratitude report fewer aches and pains, a general feeling of health, more regular exercise, and more frequent checkups with their doctor than those who don’t.
Improve your psychological health. Grateful people enjoy higher well-being and happiness, and suffer from reduced symptoms of depression.
Enhance empathy and reduces aggress. Those who show their gratitude are less likely to seek revenge against others and more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, with sensitivity and empathy.
Improve your sleep. Practicing gratitude regularly can help you sleep longer and better.
Enhance your self-esteem. People who are grateful have increased self-esteem, in part due to their ability to appreciate other peoples’ accomplishments.
Increase mental strength. Grateful people have an advantage in overcoming trauma and enhanced resilience, helping them to bounce back from highly stressful situations. (Morin, 2014)Source: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/
Pretty cool hey?! Just by feeling grateful we can get all these benefits! OK, so we know it works but what exercises can you do to get all this goodness in your life? Well, it’s actually super simple and there are loads of ways you can practice it. Some are even really fun for getting the kids involved. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Here are five simple exercises to get you started.
Morning or evening practice
First thing when you wake up before you do anything else, or last thing at night before you go to sleep, write down three things you are grateful for. Or even just say them in your head, but make them specific, not just general, “my family” or “my kids” be specific, like “I am so grateful that my friend Pip rang me yesterday and we got to have a chat” or “I am so grateful that my husband took the rubbish out tonight” or “I am so grateful that my husband made me a cup of tea” or “I am so grateful that I have my health,” Simple yet specific. I think we can all take things like this for granted but if we stop and think about the things people have done for us, even just the simplest things, it can really make a big difference to our overall outlook.
Write a letter to someone who did something really wonderful for you. Write a letter to him/her describing just how thankful you are. Include details about how it made you feel and how it made you feel about them. Who wouldn’t love to get that letter?!
Best Worst Thankful
This is a fun one for the whole family. We do this one with our kids on the nights when we all sit together at the table. We go around the table and each person has to say the best thing that happened that day, the worst thing that happened and something they are grateful for. It gives everyone a chance to get out of their head something that might be troubling them, but also focus on what has been good that day and what they are thankful for.
2 minute gratitude mediation
You can do this one at the end of your meditations every day. So after your 5, 10 or 20 minutes meditating spend 2 minutes sitting in silence and go over all the things you are grateful for in your head.
Do something nice for someone else that is totally unexpected. Leave a note for someone, pay it forward by shouting a stranger a cup of coffee, or call someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Happy acts for other people can make you feel so good and the other person gets a buzz too! Double win.
So there’s a couple of ideas for you and a great place to get started is to do a 21 day gratitude challenge!
I’d love to hear if you have any other ways that you practice gratitude and being thankful. Thanks for reading and see you next month
Here are some great articles not he subject if you are feeling really keen!