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?
If not, you might want to reconsider your approach to giving thanks. Gratitude is game changing, and engaging in a regular gratitude practice has the power to significantly improve your life.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude can be thought of as 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 can be easy to lose sight of what we’re grateful for. Our lives are crazy busy, and it’s not always easy to acknowledge what’s good. Sure, it’s easy to be thankful for the big things in life that happen, but gratitude doesn’t have to be saved solely for positive, life-changing experiences.
There’s always something to be thankful for. This is something that those who regularly engage in gratitude understand. 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 integral aspect of countless spiritual traditions, central to many religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and more. It allows us to appreciate the intricate connection we have to life, inspiring us to feel more alive and appreciative of the precious gifts life contains.
The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Regularly giving thanks can change your life — like seriously change your life.
Gratitude is strongly associated with increased states of overall well-being in practically every area of one’s life. Following are a few benefits you might expect when you engage in a regular gratitude practice.
Gratitude Improves 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 and has discovered that gratitude does indeed cause some serious emotional benefits. It can also help reduce stress, which is something we could all use.
Gratitude Is Good for Achieving Goals
Something else Emmons has discovered? 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 listed their troubles or nothing at all. Want to crush your goals and succeed at what you’ve set out to do? Being grateful could help.
Gratitude Might Improve Your Physical Health
Research shows that grateful people also experience better physical health. A 2012 project that had participants keep an online gratitude journal reported better health, including fewer headaches, stomachaches, coughs and sore throats.
It’s also said that people who are grateful are more likely to take better care of their physical health, exercise more often and get regular checkups. Grateful people also show to recover more quickly from illness and enjoy an overall healthier lifestyle.
Gratitude Can Help You Get Better Sleep
Sleep deprivation is real. Gratitude could help. A 2009 study discovered that gratitude can lead to better sleep quality and sleep duration. It can also lead to less daytime dysfunction caused by a lack of sleep. Stuck counting sheep each night? 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 definitely something 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.
You would think that knowing all the amazing benefits of gratitude would motivate one to give thanks multiple times a day, every day. Sometimes, 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” you do 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 could just change your life.
5 Tips for Cultivating a Personal Gratitude Practice
1. Give Thanks for Everything Throughout the Day
Those with a gratitude practice give thanks for everything, not just life’s biggest pleasures. Give thanks for everything you can think of each day, and you’ll find your life slowly begin to transform.
There’s nothing 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 initially 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 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
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 than you might otherwise.
There’s real 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 what you’re thankful for!
Some people find this practice helpful before going to bed each night, as they can gather positive experiences as they reflect on their day. Maybe for you, writing in a gratitude journal becomes part of a mindful morning routine. There’s no right or wrong, just 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 instill your practice deeper 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 brighten up a bit.
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 purposely bringing your attention to everything you can think of that you’re grateful for.
Research shows it takes just 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 truly is 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.