Practising gratitude has been proven to increase happiness levels, reduce stress, and even improve sleep. It’s a short and simple way to boost your wellbeing that doesn’t need any fancy equipment, money spent, or a lot of time to spare. Turning a gratitude practice into a habit is also one of the easiest habits to stick to – when you know how! But how do you cultivate gratitude every day? Here are five ways to make it a part of your life.
The Benefits of Practising Gratitude
First, let’s look at why gratitude is so important. Studies have shown that gratitude has many benefits for our health and wellbeing. People who practice gratitude generally have higher levels of happiness, as well as lower levels of stress and anxiety. Gratitude may also have positive effects on our relationships, helping to strengthen our bonds with others. Practising gratitude can also make us more optimistic and increase our connection to others. There have been studies into whether gratitude can help improve mental health conditions too, with some surprising positive benefits.
Lower stress levels, which come from regularly practicing gratitude, can have a positive impact on physical health too. Research has shown that those who experience high levels of stress may be more prone to conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and digestive issues.
It’s important to note, that there’s a big difference between gratitude and toxic positivity. Practising gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring all of the bad things or only ever focusing on the good. We need a balance of dealing with the bad things in life, but also being grateful for the good things we experience too. You can learn more about the difference in my TEDx talk – How to Bounce Back Without Burning Out.
5 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
So, we know that gratitude helps our mental and physical health and that it’s good for our wellbeing. But how do we go about bringing it into everyday life? How can we cultivate an attitude of gratitude? One of the best things about practising gratitude is that it can easily be integrated into even the busiest of schedules. You don’t need a lot of time, money or fancy equipment to express gratitude in your daily life.
Here are five simple ways to practice gratitude every day.
1. Start a gratitude journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best ways to build a gratitude habit. Studies have shown that those who write down their gratitude on a regular basis tend to be happier than those who do not. The key is to make gratitude journaling part of your daily routine. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a keen journaler or just getting started, try writing down three things you’re grateful for every morning and/or evening in a notebook or journal. The Anti-Burnout Journal also has space for your gratitude of the day if you prefer a more guided approach.
Don’t want to invest in a new notebook or journal? You can even use your phone notes or a specific gratitude or journaling app if you’d prefer. What matter is that this fits into your life as easily as possible, so find the technique that works for you best.
Some days will be harder than others and these are the times when you’ll need gratitude the most. If you’re struggling to think about what you’re grateful for, consider looking at some of the smaller things in your life that perhaps you take for granted. Don’t forget, you can be grateful for people (and pets) too!
2. Write thank you notes
Another great way to practice a little gratitude is to write thank-you notes or a gratitude letter. It can be incredibly easy to forget to say thank you to the people who have helped us along the way, whether that be at home or at work. However, studies have shown that those who practice gratitude deepen their relationship with others.
When we express gratitude to others, we can not only make ourselves feel good, but it has a positive effect on the person we are grateful for too. Who knows, maybe they’ll pass on the gratitude to someone else and your ripple will turn into a giant wave.
Try making it part of your weekly or monthly routine. Reach out to those who have helped you recently with a little note to say thank you. Handwritten cards and letters are always a thoughtful touch because very few of us get anything but bills through the door! However, you can also send emails and texts if you’re short on time.
3. Make a gratitude jar
One of the nicest ways to express gratitude more often is to make your very own gratitude jar. You can get crafty using an old jam or coffee jar and create something personal to you. Or you may like to buy a jar specifically for your new gratitude practice. Either way, once you’ve got your jar, start to fill it up with all of the things you’re grateful for in life.
You could use different colours for different types of gratitudes or just use any bits of scrap paper to fill up your jar. Again, it has to work for you and we don’t need to spend lots of money on anything fancy… Unless you want to, of course!
When you’re having a tough day, reach into the jar and pull out a slip of paper. Spend a few moments savouring how that gratitude makes you feel, before writing a new one to replace what you pulled out. This is also an excellent activity to do with the whole family, especially if you want to teach children the power of gratitude too.
4. Gratitude meditation
Another great way to practice gratitude is to meditate on the things you’re grateful for. This can be a guided gratitude meditation (like this one from Kristy) or you can just spend a few minutes focusing your attention on all the things you feel grateful for. You may want to start your morning with a gratitude meditation which will set you up for a more positive day. Or, try practising a gratitude meditation just before bed to help you sleep better.
You don’t need to spend a long time on this; just a few minutes can make all of the difference. You can also combine a gratitude meditation with a journaling practice or with your gratitude jar, so you’ve always got the things you’re grateful for written down on paper. Both meditation and gratitude reduce stress levels, so combining the two together can feel like a super-combo of stress-busters!
5. Celebrate the little things
We often focus on the big goals in our lives, but it’s important to celebrate the small successes and things that go right along the way. Celebrating the little things can help you to stay motivated positive, and grateful. Try to make a habit of looking for small successes and celebrating them. What small things have gone your way recently? What are those little victories? Before you set new goals or only focus on the ‘bigger picture,’ reflect on how far you’ve come.
We love Sunday reflections at The Anti-Burnout Club, as it’s the perfect time to celebrate everything that’s gone right over the last week. Why not start your own Sunday habit of writing down all of the little successes that you can be grateful for this week?
Finally, remember that it takes time and consistent effort to build a habit of gratitude – just like any other habit. Pick just 1-2 of these ways to practice gratitude and start integrating it into your daily life right away to see the biggest difference. And remember, we don’t have to be grateful for everything in life, but we should look for the things that do light us up, even in the toughest times.