How to Practice Gratitude

What is gratitude? Gratitude is a readiness to be thankful, to show appreciation – and to return kindness to others. A growing base of research shows that being grateful can improve our physical and mental health, strengthen our relationships, help us deal with difficult times, and make us feel happier overall.

Gratitude Exercises

It’s easy to get so caught up in the difficult or negative things and lose sight of all the good things in your life. Taking a few minutes to notice what you’re grateful for can drastically change your outlook. Here are a few ideas for how to practice gratitude in your daily life:

Journaling

Journaling is a powerful and personal way to connect with your emotions and reflect on what you’re grateful for.  When journaling, consistency is key. To get started, write for five minutes each evening about your day. Try to make this a regular habit.

To focus your journal writing on gratitude, write a short list of things you appreciate in the moment. If you need some gratitude inspiration, you can try answering these questions:

  • What are you looking forward to?
  • What is an accomplishment you’re proud of?
  • What is a family tradition you’re grateful for?
  • What is something or someone that makes you feel safe?
  • What is a simple pleasure you’re grateful for?
  • What did someone do for you that you are grateful for? What are you grateful to be able to do for someone else?

Gratitude Posts

We don’t mean posts on social media – instead, for this exercise, use sticky notes to capture things you’re thankful for, like small acts of kindness you see during your day, personal wins or unexpected surprises, and appreciation for the people in your life.

Hang these posts up wherever you frequently find yourself stressed out – for example, your desk at work, your bathroom mirror, or your locker at school. Whenever you are feeling negative or overwhelmed, read your posts and try to add a new one.

Kindness Cards

This simple exercise involves two things that boost our mental health: gratitude and doing something kind for someone else.

Whenever you’re feeling anxious, sad, or stressed and need a pick-me-up, think of someone you appreciate. Grab a notecard and write them a note to tell them how important they are to you and why you’re grateful to have them in your life. Then address it, add a stamp, and send it. By doing this, you can turn your negative feelings into an act of kindness!

Continuing Gratitude as Self-Care

Whatever you choose to do to reflect on what you’re grateful for, the most important part of any gratitude practice is consistency. We tend to stop doing self-care practices like journaling or gratitude posts when we feel busy or overwhelmed. In reality, this is when we need to focus more on maintaining a positive outlook. So remember to keep practicing gratitude, even in difficult times.

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