We’re currently still finding ourselves in emotionally and mentally difficult times, because of lockdowns, restrictions, and other things that prevent us from fully experiencing life.
This is hard for many, many people around the globe. But there are things we can do to get us through this difficult time. Things that can change your life. One of those things is practicing gratitude and in this post, you’ll learn exactly how to start this practice!
What exactly is gratitude?
An expression of gratitude in its most basic form is simply saying ‘’thank you’’ or ‘’I appreciate it.’’ Now, there is a difference between gratitude as a practice and plain old gratitude as in expressing it out of politeness.
You say ‘’thank you’’ when you get your change back at the grocery store and I’m sure you can think of a hundred situations where you say thank you in a similar way. But these phrases have become so standard that there’s no feeling involved.
And that’s what differentiates expressions of gratitude from practicing gratitude – sincere feeling and emotion.
This sincere feeling and emotion ultimately comes down to appreciation, but also acknowledging all that is good in your life. This practice enables you to feel and experience real appreciation for people, things, thoughts, and really anything in your life!
You also start to see that gratitude is outside of yourself. Think about it, can you really be grateful for yourself? The answer is no, not really. And this can be a very impactful thing – realizing that a lot of the world’s beauty is outside of yourself.
What’s also important to realize is that practicing it can be seen as developing or improving a skill. Meaning that you can get increasingly better the more you practice.
And so, by practicing gratitude, you will start to see an increase in all the amazing things life has to offer. This, without increasing the number of amazing things that actually happen. This will ultimately help you to discover the abundance in your life!
Why you should be practicing gratitude
So we’ve already touched upon why practicing gratitude can be so amazing – to deeply experience positive emotions and abundance. You do this by entering a state of gratefulness, which for a certain amount of time colors your mood and feeling tone to be immensely positive.
Here are some of its most prominent benefits according to research!
- It reduces stress
- Increases happiness
- Improves close relationships
- It makes you less self-centered
- Improves your sleep
So you see, by practicing this concept, you will probably be better off in most, if not all, of life’s endeavors. Be it mental health, your work life, social life, your physical health, you name it and gratitude can improve it – directly or indirectly.
Now I want you to think about how these benefits could apply to you. How do you think gratitude can improve your relationships? How can it improve your happiness? Go through the list and make yourself excited for the practice!
Don’t worry if you aren’t yet able to see how the benefits might apply to your life. Just be convinced that it will make a difference because trust me, it will!
How predisposed to practicing gratitude are you?
We tend to measure everything nowadays and even gratitude can be measured! We’re talking about how likely you are to experience a lot of grateful feelings as opposed to a little. This can tell you how predisposed you are to practicing gratitude.
Do keep in mind that even if you score low on this test, it’s just a test. It wouldn’t mean that you aren’t able to begin practicing it. Quite the opposite, actually. If you score low on this test you know that there is even more to gain, which should motivate you. Let’s do the test!
What does your score mean?
- If you scored below 35 (out of 42), then you are in the bottom quarter of the sample group (1224 people).
- If you scored below 38, then you are in the bottom half of the sample group.
- If you scored a 41, you scored higher than 75% of the sample group.
- And if you scored a maximum of 42 points, you are in the top 13% of the sample group.
This sample group is from a spirituality and health website. So if you didn’t do very well on this test, there are no hard conclusions to be drawn here, it’s just an indication.
Now you roughly know where you stand on the gratitude scale, it’s time to start taking action!
How can you start practicing it?
There are a lot of things you can do to begin practicing gratitude. Luckily for you, most of them are fairly easy to do and implement into your life.
1. Keeping a gratitude journal
This is one of the most common ways people start practicing gratitude. Youtube is full of guides for it, you can buy journals of gratitude, or find templates all over the internet. But in the end, they all serve the same purpose and a few basic principles are in place.
Always start a journal entry with ‘’I am grateful for…’’. This establishes the connection between you and the other person, thing, or experience. Then, write down something you’re grateful for, but be specific. If you write ‘’I’m grateful for my best friend’’, you most likely won’t feel a lot of the feelings we’re looking to feel.
Instead, you could write ‘’I’m grateful for my best friend because he’s helped me grow as a person [by doing this and that], is always there for me and enables me to be my best self.’’
This is specific and invokes a lot more feeling than a general statement. You actually describe what makes you feel grateful about that person or thing.
Most people tend to write in their journal when they wake up or when they’re about to go to sleep. It makes sense since you will start and end your day on a positive note.
Deeply experience all the feelings that come up when you write in your journal!
2. Gratitude meditation
If you’re completely new to meditation, we recommend you read this post about mindfulness before you read on.
The two basic methods for meditation described there is a good basis to start this meditation from. What you do differently now is, instead of ‘scanning’ your body or focusing on your breathing, you reflect on all the things that you’re grateful for.
Make sure that you are able to relax your body and mind before you start incorporating gratitude into it.
When you’ve recalled a list of things you’re grateful for, end the meditation with a closing affirmation/appreciative line. This could be something like ‘’thank you for all the beautiful things in my life. May these acts of gratitude continue to improve my well-being and love.’’
Be sure to make this a personal statement you deeply resonate with!
3. Make a visual gratitude board
If you’re a bit of an arts and crafts person, this might just be perfect for you!
All you really do is visualize your gratitude journal. Humans also tend to be visual creatures, possibly making this a more effective method of practicing it as well. You can add pictures, drawings, anything that visualizes what you’re grateful for.
Try to add between 1 to 3 things to your board every day. When your board is full, take a picture so you can look back at this period of gratitude. Then begin again and continue to fill your board!
4. Turn ‘standard’ expressions of gratitude into gratitude practice
Instead of saying a meaningless ‘’thank you’’ as we talked about in the beginning. Sincerely say ‘’thanks, I really appreciate it because [why you’re grateful].’’
This will create an upwards spiral of positive feelings as you will have made someone else feel good, which makes you feel good and this will project itself onto further encounters during the day. You could also look at it as a rippling effect in a pond, everyone gets infected with positivity!
5. Bonus: a few other possibilities for practicing gratitude
- Gratitude box (put a few notes of gratitude in the box every day, possibly share with loved ones)
- Gratitude item (get a small item which, throughout the day, will remind you to be grateful/express gratitude)
- Gratitude walk (take a stroll and look at the beauty of the world, be grateful for that)
- Creations of gratitude (craft some decorative pieces with notes or messages of gratitude)
- Letter of gratitude (send someone a letter with a bunch of things you’re grateful for)
How to make this practice a habit
If you don’t practice gratitude (nearly) every day, you will miss out on most of the possible benefits. That’s why it’s incredibly important to make this a habit. So, how do you do it?
It’s fairly simple, really. Incorporate writing in your gratitude journal or doing a gratitude meditation in your morning and/or evening routine – if you have one. Practicing gratitude on set days at set times will over-time establish a connection, which will remind you to do it.
Something that can make the process of habit formation a lot easier is a habit tracking app. Here are the 6 best habit tracking apps, so you can choose which one suits you best!
What (not) to expect in this practice
Practicing gratitude can bring great changes to your life, but you shouldn’t think that this is THE thing to make your life great. It’s the compounded efforts of multiple practices like this that improve your well-being and happiness.
Gratitude practice does, in fact, provide you with the benefits we mentioned earlier, but this will be the result of a prolonged period of practice. As with anything that’s called a practice, you get better at it the more you do it. So don’t expect a quick fix, we’re looking for sustainable growth!
How practicing gratitude will change your life
Over time, you will begin to see various patterns when practicing gratitude. The most important one (the one that can change your life) is that you will realize that happiness is partially a choice.
When practicing gratitude you, in some way, choose to be happy by focusing on the things you’re grateful for. The same can be done without expressing gratitude by just thinking of the good things in your life. And while this might be considered outside the realm of gratitude practice, it will be easier for you to choose happiness when you’ve practiced gratitude for a longer period of time.
This is the thought we wanted to leave you with today. Let it sink in and realize that there’s much more hiding behind every practice than you might think at first.
Thank you for spending your time here today, it’s greatly appreciated. If you enjoyed this post or got any value out of it, please consider sharing it, liking it, or doing whatever you see fit to get it out there!
Hope to see you around someday, have a good one!
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