“The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.”
Pretty powerful, right? This comes from verified research by Dr Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude. His research has shown that practicing gratitude is correlated to positive health outcomes and even happiness.
Practicing gratitude allows us to celebrate the present, instead of over analyzing the past or fretting about the future. It allows us to be an active participant in our lives. It is a way of reshaping our minds to be thankful for what we currently have - not what we are lacking. Being grateful allows us to block out those negative emotions that may otherwise plague us. It helps to raise our vibrations, attracting to us more positive experiences that match that same elevated vibration.
It’s easy to overlook the little things in our lives, the things that make us happy, the things that make us smile, the things that we should be thankful for. It's easy because we constantly find ourselves surrounded by such negativity on a daily basis from the “news” channels to our gossiping coworkers to the Facebook posts of that girl we once knew in college 10 years ago.
Now more than ever, we need to make a concerted effort to ground ourselves in positive practices for our mental health and wellbeing.
Here are three simple ways you can start to practice gratitude.
1. Write it down.
One of the easiest ways to learn how to practice gratitude and change your mindset is to start keeping a gratitude journal. You probably even have a spare notebook lying around that is ready to have its pages filled with positivity. Take the time, either first thing in the morning or right before bed at night, to write down the things for which you are grateful. You don’t have to write a novel, or even in complete sentences. Just bullet point your items and write them down. This serves as a reminder that there is goodness in the world, and goodness within our life by presenting ourselves with a tangible list. What is especially nice about the practice of journaling is that on those dark days where nothing seems to be going right, we can flip back through the pages of our journal and bring a little light into our world.
2. Practice in the car or when doing ordinary daily activities.
One of the biggest reasons people don't practice gratitude is because it's something that takes time.
Learn to fold your practice into something you already do and do regularly (officially known as habit stacking). The repetitive habit you pair with your gratitude practice becomes your reminder cue. For example, I practice gratitude while I am driving. I look at the sky ahead of me and reflect on the beauty of the day, absorbing all of the details about the day. Even on days where it’s grey and cloudy and dull, I find ways to appreciate the shades of grey. I will reflect deeper into my life for what else may be present that day to call to mind other things for which I can be grateful.
When practicing, it’s important to move beyond the obvious. We can almost all list our family or a close friend, our children or parents, our health, our job… These are common things. But can you find small little details? Like the beauty of daffodils emerging from the ground or kids laughing. This deeper inquiry sends you further into the practice and thus further into your heart and your life’s own blessings.
Another example would be to practice in the shower or practice when brushing your teeth. By tying it to things you do daily, you won’t forget and it will become a bright spot in ordinary tasks that bring about mindfulness and joy.
3. Send a letter or a card.
An essential component of a gratitude practice is understanding where the source of the “goodness” comes from. That means the good things are never usually something that we did ourselves that we feel grateful for - it is usually something someone else has done for us. It’s always nice to express your gratitude when someone does something for you. It not only puts yourself in a more positive mindset, but it helps to make that other person feel appreciated.
Gratitude is considered to be a great tool for building and strengthening relationships. You don’t have to go through some grand gesture - just a simple “thank you” will suffice. You never know what that other person might have going on in their lives, so just the act of acknowledging them may have an impact on their happiness.
My Anchor the Light monthly box provides a monthly prompt for giving and expressing thoughtful sentiments of kindness and love. Each month you’ll receive a kindness card that is meant to be given away. These actions are both ways to express gratitude as well as cultivate gratitude in the hearts of others.
Each box is filled with intentionally curated items that will allow you to perform the healing work of transforming your beliefs using affirmations, journaling, and setting intentions. You will also be prompted to share thoughtful sentiments with others, spreading vibrations of loving kindness. When we give freely and show others we care, there is a natural response both in the recipient and in ourselves... gratitude.
Join the movement to start celebrating the goodness around you. Together, we ARE the change.