6 Ways to Practice Gratitude
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
By: Nicole Bentley, LCSW
While it’s common practice to practice gratitude around thanksgiving and the holidays, there are wonderful advantages to practicing gratitude year round. Benefits of a consistent gratitude practice include increased life satisfaction, opportunities for shifts in perspective, increased sense of balance, decreased stress, increased connection to friends, family and the present moment, and improved mood. If you have a yearning to practice gratitude most days, not just around the holidays, here are some helpful tips for you!
1. Gratitude Journal
This is one of the most popular forms of gratitude practice, and for good reason! Journaling about what you are grateful for is a great way to feel fully connected and engaged with the topic, and provides the opportunity to look back and reflect as well. Feel free to make this process your own. Journal in the morning, at night, spontaneously as inspiration strikes, or get really creative and make a collage or another piece of art that represents your gratitude in a particular moment.
2. Gratitude Hour
This technique involves choosing a specific length of time (anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour) with the intention of keeping gratitude top of mind during that time. That means that whatever you notice and whatever happens during that period of time is an opportunity to connect with gratitude. Even if it seems like nothing happened, feel free to connect with your gratitude for the seemingly mundane, like a cool breeze, the way the sun hits the grass, or the smile of a stranger.
Practice bringing gratitude up in conversation with friends, family and co-workers. You might be surprised at their responses, and you’ll maybe inspire others to practice gratitude too! The next time someone at work asks, “how was your weekend?” go ahead and respond with what you appreciated most about the weekend, rather than the more common response of “it was good, too short though!” Language can be very impactful to our mental health, and the more we hear ourselves and others discussing what we are grateful for, the more it will impact us positively.
Go ahead and set aside some reflective time, and consider what you are grateful for, or what the best parts of your life are right now. This can be a purely cognitive activity, making it possible to practice anywhere, anytime. Special tip: Consider including this practice with your self- care. For example, go by the beach and reflect, or reflect while on a bike ride, or soaking in the bath. Making time to connect with what you are grateful for is self-care, and can be restorative.
5. Gratitude Matching
This technique is simple, and is helpful for people who struggle to remember to practice gratitude. Whenever you hear someone share a grateful thought, practice matching it with one of your own. It can be the same grateful thought the other person shared, or a new one all together; either way you are getting in touch with what you are grateful for, and growing in that practice.
6. Partnered with Negativity
Another cue for gratitude can be complaining or negative self-talk. If you find yourself speaking in a way that feels like it is bringing you down, take that as an opportunity to turn to gratitude. It might not feel genuine in the moment; however that doesn’t mean that you are lying to yourself. It is possible to express something you are grateful for, even if you don’t fully connect with that gratitude in that specific moment, and that’s okay. Reaching for gratitude during these times doesn’t necessarily change your mood, but it does provide more perspective which can be helpful during challenging times.