We are undoubtedly in unprecedented times. There is so much going on and naturally people are worried. Worried about their health, worried about their families, and worried about their jobs. It’s so hard to see the positives in a time like this and stress and anxiety is at an all time high. I know it definitely has been for me. That’s why I believe now more than ever, it important to practice gratitude. Gratitude is historically a thing we only do once a year around Thanksgiving. We usually all go around the table a say one thing that we’re thankful for. If you think back to that time, you probably felt all warm and fuzzy inside when talking about how thankful you were for family, friends, and a good meal. It’s definitely a feel good time for a lot of people, and it’s not just because of the good food.
This really got me thinking, what is it about this time that makes us feel so good? Is it the fact that we’re surrounded by family and friends? That we can stuff our faces guilt free? Undoubtedly it’s due to a combination of these things, but I think the most important one is it brings to light the good things in our lives that we are thankful for. If that’s the case, why don’t we do this year round? It’s not like Thanksgiving is the only time we are thankful for friends, family, and food. There is so much to be grateful for in our lives on a daily basis, we just don’t ever take the time to recognize it. When times are tough like they are right now, it’s important to think about how much in our lives we have to be thankful for. That’s start with practicing gratitude.
So, what is gratitude and how can you implement into your daily life? Let’s dive in and find out.
What is gratitude?
The dictionary definition of gratitude is “the quality of being thankful”. That’s why so many people think of Thanksgiving or “being thankful” when they think of gratitude. I think what’s important to note about gratitude, is that it’s a state of mind. It’s when you make the decision to appreciate the positive things in your life. Only you can make the conscious decision to find the positives in your life and be grateful for them. There is always something to appreciate and be thankful for, even in bad experiences. If nothing else, those experience teach us something important, which is also something you can be grateful for.
What does it mean to practice gratitude?
A lot of people think of gratitude is an emotion and that you either experience it or you don’t. Many people don’t think gratitude is something that can be practiced. Well I’m here to set the record straight and say that those people are WRONG. You can practice gratitude just like you practice medication, yoga, or any other activity. It’s about making the conscious decision to be grateful each and every day, the same way you make the decision to get up everyone more and make coffee or go to the gym. You can practice gratitude by focusing on the good things in your life that you normally take for granted. Noticing these things in your life as they happen is the first step to practicing gratitude successfully.
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
According to a Yale study, gratitude is strongly linked to good mental health and overall life satisfaction. People who are grateful on average experience more joy, love and enthusiasm. It reduces your risk of depression, anxiety, and helps people heal and find closure. There is even evidence to support that people who experience gratitude cope better with stress, recover more quickly from illness, and tend to be in better physical health. This is a great added bonus given the current COVID-19 pandemic. We all want to stay healthy during this time and experience less stress and anxiety associated with it. There are so many good things about practicing gratitude.
How to practice gratitude?
As I mentioned above, the first step to practicing gratitude is noticing the things in your life that are going well and/or that you are thankful for. You’re probably thinking, that sounds way too simple. Well, it is! That’s literally all you have to do. There is no catch and no trick. Just take time to stop and notice what’s going well.
Examples of this could be:
- Noticing the beauty in nature (Wow, what a beautiful rose bush by my mailbox that I’ve never noticed before)
- How much you smiled today (I had so much fun talking with my friend today, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much!)
- Doing an act of kindness (I cleaned out my closet and donated a bag of clothes to my nearest thrift store)
- Cooking a meal that you loved (Those pork chops were so good)
- Spending quality time with your family (I had so much fun on movie night with the family)
- Having a good nights sleep (I can’t believe I slept for a full 8 hours!)
The next step is to express that gratitude in some way. This can be done by simply writing it down in a journal, or expressing your gratitude directly to a person and thanking them. It can even been appreciating yourself for a job well done. There are many different ways to practice gratitude and what works best will depend on the person.
Some examples could include:
- Keeping a gratitude journal and adding to it once a day.
- Telling someone that you love and appreciate them.
- Thanking someone for the delicious meal they just cooked.
- Doing something nice for someone else just because.
- Volunteering for an organization you care about.
- Spending more quality time with your family.
- Complementing a stranger.
- Writing a letter to an old friend.
- Pampering yourself after a long hard work week.
The bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to express gratitude. The important part is that you make a conscious effort to think of all the things going right in your life instead of focusing on the negatives.
Here are just a few things I’m thankful for:
- I have a job that I love.
- I have a safe place to live.
- Everyone in my family is healthy right now.
- The beautiful weather we’ve been having in Oregon.
- I can stay connected to my friends and family in other states through FaceTime.
What are some things you’re thankful for and how do you plan to be more mindful of the good things in your life? Let me know how you plan to practice gratitude every day. Remember, gratitude can change your attitude.