How to Live a Life of Gratitude
Counting Our Blessings
Shorter days and cooler temperatures can only mean one thing – we are entering the holiday season! It’s the time of year for celebrating with loved ones (even if just virtually), reflecting on the past few months, and gearing up for the start of a new year. For many of us, it’s also a time when we focus on counting our blessings. But gratitude shouldn’t just be seasonal! Read on to learn about the power of gratitude and how to live a more intentionally grateful life year-round.
The Power of Gratitude
We’re taught from a young age that saying thank you is the polite thing to do. But it turns out gratitude is good for a whole lot more than just social etiquette. Cultivating gratitude can have enormous impacts on your overall well-being and life satisfaction. And better yet, it doesn’t cost a cent!
Research has shown that when we are consistently grateful for our life and for what we have, we experience better physical and psychological health. We exercise more often, keep up with preventive health screenings, experience greater happiness, and reduce feelings of frustration and anger. We may even sleep better!
Gratitude also helps build mental resilience. Grateful people tend to be more empathetic and better able to handle everyday stress. In fact, even people who survived traumatic events, like the 9/11 attacks, have been found to reduce depression, anxiety, and PTSD by consistently practicing gratitude.
Grateful people also tend to have stronger relationships. After all, we all like being acknowledged and thanked for the things we do, so we appreciate being around people who express their gratitude openly and often.
How to Build a Gratitude Practice
Clearly, gratitude can be a powerful tool in improving our lives and the lives of those around us. So how can we increase the amount of gratitude we feel on a daily basis – particularly when things don’t really seem to be going our way?
It all comes down to intention.
While we often think of gratitude as something that just happens naturally, the truth is that gratitude is a practice. To reap its rewards, we need to commit to it consistently and consciously. This means taking time every day, even just for a few minutes, to intentionally focus on the people, things, and experiences we have to be grateful for.
One great way to build a gratitude practice is to start a gratitude journal. Writing down things you’re grateful for every single day can strengthen your gratitude muscle and open your eyes to the wide array of blessings in your life. Take a few minutes before bed or first thing in the morning to jot down five to ten things you have to be grateful for. And remember to be specific! Instead of just writing, “I’m grateful for my family,” you could write something like, “I’m grateful to my spouse for bringing me a delicious cup of coffee this morning.”
Make it a point to express your gratitude to the people in your life more often. You can write a thank-you card or letter (handwritten, not typed!) to someone who has made a difference in your life. This could be a colleague, a mentor, a supportive friend, your child’s teacher, or even the animal rescue where you adopted your furry family member. You can also start a gratitude challenge. Every day for a week or a month, go out of your way to tell someone exactly why you’re grateful for them, either verbally or in writing.
To involve other members of your household in your gratitude practice, you can start a family gratitude jar. Encourage each member of your family to write down something they have to be grateful for at least once a week. You can review everyone’s gratitude notes together as a family once a month, or even create a special New Year’s Eve ritual by having everyone pick their highlights to remember the wonderful year you’ve had!
Think Small – and See Big Benefits!
Not every day is filled with promotions, raises, family milestones, or other obvious reasons to celebrate. Some days it’s easier to feel grateful than others. This is where the true secret of gratitude comes in.
The more you can be grateful for the little things, the more fulfilled your life will become. Like a virtuous cycle, cultivating gratitude for your everyday life will only open your eyes to more things you have to be grateful for.
Find moments throughout your day to acknowledge your five senses, your ability to breathe deeply, or your ability to move your body. Take the time to savor your first sip of coffee in the morning or to notice how good drinking water makes you feel. With practice, you can even find things to be grateful for in unpleasant situations. Maybe sitting in traffic gives you the chance to finish listening to a great podcast, or washing another sink full of dishes reminds you how blessed you are to have abundant, healthy food.
Start building more gratitude into your daily life, and you’ll have even more to celebrate this holiday season – and beyond!