"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more.”—Melody Beattie.
Odds are, you could practice more gratitude--in fact, most people could probably benefit from practicing more gratitude in their lives. For example, you may have seen quotes like the one above posted online or heard from a caregiver that you should “count your blessings.”
So, what exactly is gratitude really? How can you take this concept of appreciation for what you have and turn it into something practical? What does it actually mean to practice more gratitude?
What Is Gratitude?
For starters, let’s clarify what gratitude is. According to Merriam-Webster, gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thanks. That simple definition is a helpful baseline understanding, but what can you actually do to practice more gratitude?
Robert Emmons, Ph.D., is a psychologist and world-renowned leader in studying the science of gratitude. He defines gratitude as “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received.” This definition can be helpful because it takes the feeling of gratitude and attaches an action--you are affirming the good in your world.
Why Practice Gratitude?
You know that gratitude is an affirmation of the good in your life. So, why take it a step further and create a gratitude practice? According to researchers, gratitude increases resilience, which helps you to better deal with life’s many stressors and challenges.
In addition to resilience, regular gratitude practice can improve both your physical and emotional health. A gratitude practice can help you:
Strengthen your immune system
Lower blood pressure
Feel more joy
Feel more alert and attentive
Feel more optimism
Feel more compassionate toward others
Feel less isolated
Okay, I’ll Practice More Gratitude...but How?!
If you’ve never focused on how to intentionally practice gratitude, it can feel overwhelming. Where do you start?!
It is important to remember that a gratitude practice can be simple. It does not have to be time-consuming or intense to have a significant positive impact. Here are a few ideas of how you can practice gratitude.
Create a Gratitude Journal
Journaling can be an incredibly valuable and effective tool. Using a gratitude journal might look like:
Creating a weekly gratitude list
Writing three things you are grateful for each morning
Writing a nightly gratitude reflection
Drawing things you are thankful for a few days per week
As with anything new, remember to keep it simple. To add more regular gratitude practice into your life, it’s crucial to make it sustainable. Gratitude practice is most beneficial when you keep it consistent. So take it easy and don’t push yourself too hard to start!
Not a Writer? No Problem!
A gratitude practice doesn’t have to be complicated or involve writing. Challenge yourself to come up with the most straightforward way you could express gratitude during your day. Simplified gratitude practice could be:
Saying thank you to one person per day
Saying “I am grateful for _____” in the mirror
Calling a friend to tell you to appreciate them
Finding one thing you are grateful for every time you step outside
The Power of the Reframe
Reframing is often used in therapy to challenge negative thought patterns. But, it can also be used as a technique to add more gratitude practice into your daily life. So, how do you reframe?
Think of a frustrating situation. You might have had a frustrating phone call with a client at work or found yourself stuck in traffic. Think about that situation, and now challenge yourself to find the silver lining:
Thought: I am stuck in traffic, this is terrible.
Reframe: This longer commute allowed me to listen to my favorite podcast with no interruptions!
This does not mean you need to be grateful for traffic, but finding the reframe can help you find gratitude in many situations! Life can be difficult, and gratitude is not always easy to find--building the skill of reframing can help.
Gratitude cannot fix every challenge you face in your life. However, gratitude can help you improve your resilience. A regular gratitude practice can support your sleep, allow you to feel more positive emotions, improve your immune system, and support your relationships.
When it comes to establishing your own gratitude practice, remember to keep it simple and sustainable. Find the ways of expressing your appreciation for the goodness in your life that feel most helpful to you. This may look like writing, positive affirmations, or connecting with loved ones.
If you need more help in developing a gratitude practice, it may be helpful to reach out for help. At The Mental Health House, we are here to support you and your loved ones on our journeys towards wellness. Contact us today to learn more!