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What Is Gratitude Practice?

What Is Gratitude Practice?


How grateful would you consider yourself? Are you constantly giving thanks for things both big and small? Do you take time to mindfully make a mental note of the little things that happen each day you’re thankful for?

Gratitude is game changing, and engaging in a regular gratitude practice has the power to significantly improve your life. So, what is gratitude practice?

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude can be considered a state of mind in which a person consciously gives thanks for the things in their life, regardless of what these “things” might be.

The Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.”

It’s easy to sometimes lose sight of what we’re grateful for. Our lives are very busy, and it’s not always easy to acknowledge the good in it. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful for the bigger things that happen, but gratitude doesn’t have to be exclusively reserved for positive, life-changing experiences.

Those who regularly engage in gratitude understand that there’s always something to be thankful for. Individuals who have a gratitude practice are said to be happier and have a deeper sense of the world around them.

There’s a reason gratitude is an important aspect of countless spiritual traditions, and is central to many religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and more. It allows us to appreciate the intricate connection we have to life and inspires us to feel more alive and appreciative of the precious gifts life contains.

The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Giving regular thanks can seriously change your life.

Gratitude is strongly associated with increased states of overall well-being in basically all the areas of life. Below are a few benefits you might expect to receive when you engage in a regular gratitude practice.

Gratitude Improves Your Mood

gratitude practice uplifts your mood

Can being grateful really make you a happier person? Researchers say yes. Robert Emmons is a leading gratitude expert who has conducted significant research on the subject of gratitude and well-being. Emmons has discovered that gratitude does in fact cause some serious emotional benefits and can also help reduce stress.

Gratitude Is Good for Achieving Goals

Emmons has also discovered that gratitude can help you achieve your goals. In one study, he found that individuals who kept gratitude lists made more progress towards meeting their personal goals over a two-month time period than those who only listed their troubles or nothing at all. Want to achieve your goals and succeed at what you decide to do? Being grateful could help.

Gratitude Might Improve Your Physical Health

Research suggests that grateful people also experience better physical health. A 2012 project that had participants keep an online gratitude journal reported better overall health, including fewer stomachaches, headaches, coughs and sore throats.

It’s also said that grateful people are more likely to take better care of their physical health, exercise more often and get regular checkups. Grateful people are also shown to recover illness more quickly and enjoy an overall healthier lifestyle.

Gratitude Can Help You Get Better Sleep

get better sleep

Being grateful might support your sleep. A 2009 study discovered that gratitude can lead to better sleep quality and sleep duration. It can also lead to reduced daytime dysfunction caused by a lack of sleep. Instead of counting sheep. try spending 15 minutes writing about what you’re grateful for each night before going to bed. You might just fall asleep faster and sleep longer, which is another thing to be thankful for.

Gratitude Can Improve Your Relationships

Gratitude inspires more social behavior and has shown to significantly improve relations with others. Being grateful reduces the likelihood of reacting negatively towards others, even when met with criticism. In a 2008 study, Emmons discovered that children who practice grateful thinking have a more positive attitude towards their parents, peers and school.

Sometimes, however, being thankful is much easier said than done. Like anything, cultivating a gratitude practice takes time, and is more akin to a cultivated virtue than a “thing” to be done here and there.

Interested in personally discovering just how beneficial a gratitude practice can be? Check out the following tips for cultivating a personal gratitude practice–– it might just change your life.

5 Tips for Cultivating a Personal Gratitude Practice

1. Give Thanks for Everything Throughout the Day

give thanks for everything

Those with a gratitude practice give thanks for everything, not just the biggest pleasures in life. Give thanks for everything you can think of everyday, and you’ll find your life will slowly begin to transform.

Nothing is too small when it comes to gratitude. A good night’s sleep. Warm, running water. A roof over your head. Food in your fridge. The unconditional love of your animals. Start to give thanks for everything throughout each day. You’ll likely discover there’s a lot more to be thankful for than you had thought.

2. Appreciate Everything, Even Life’s Challenges

Don’t just save your gratitude for the good. Cultivating a gratitude practice involves learning to appreciate everything, even the challenges we all regularly face. Hate your job? Having a grateful attitude about it can lead to something better. Has it been snowing for days and you’re unhappy about the weather? Be grateful you’re warm and have shelter. Others aren’t so fortunate.

It isn’t exactly easy to appreciate the curveballs life throws at us, but they are also part of life. When we acknowledge them with a different attitude, it can help us appreciate other aspects of our life we might’ve taken for granted.

3. Write Down What You’re Thankful for in a Gratitude Journal

gratitude journal

Several studies have shown the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. Not only will writing down what you’re thankful for each day help to cultivate a regular gratitude practice, but it can also help you focus on more positive experiences.

There’s serious power in putting pen to paper when it comes to practicing gratitude. It forces you to really think about that which you’re grateful for without distraction. Pick a time each day that works for you and start writing down a few things you’re thankful for!

Some people find this practice helpful as they unwind before bed each night so that they can gather positive experiences as they reflect on their day. Perhaps for you, writing in a gratitude journal becomes part of a mindful morning routine. There’s no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. All you need is a willingness to express your thanks on paper.

4. Regularly Express Your Thanks to Others

A great way to cultivate a regular gratitude practice is by expressing your thanks to others. Remember, happiness only increases when shared. Not only will expressing your thanks to others make someone’s day, but it will also help further instill your practice and ultimately give you more reasons to be thankful.

Begin communicating your thanks to others on a regular basis and watch your world and the world around you become a better place.

5. Engage in a Mindful Practice of Gratitude Each Day

Mindfulness is often described as “paying attention on purpose to the present moment.” Engaging in a mindful practice of gratitude might look like sitting down for 15 minutes a day and actively bringing your attention to everything you can think of that you’re grateful for.

Research shows it only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice to change patterns of thinking in the brain. Mindfully practicing gratitude can literally rewire your brain to be more grateful, which ultimately leads to increased happiness and overall well-being.

Time for Thankfulness

Cultivating your own gratitude practice can change your life. Once you start to give thanks, it only gets easier. You’ll start to find that there is absolutely always something to be thankful for. Once you start expressing your gratitude, you’ll discover the countless blessings life really does contain.

In the words of Willie Nelson, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Honestly, we’ve experienced the same.

Do you have a personal gratitude practice? We’d love to hear about the different ways you give thanks in the comments below.

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