Gratitude [noun] – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Practicing gratitude involves taking some time out of your day to notice and reflect upon things, people and/or situations to be thankful for, that we sometimes take for granted. It is an individualised activity, meaning you can practice gratitude however, wherever and whenever you like. Taking some time out of your day to be grateful is also a way to relax, particularly useful on those days where you feel like you haven’t had a chance to stop and take a breath.
This practice works best when you express gratitude toward specific situations, things or people. While you may always appreciate your family and friends, noting ‘I’m grateful for my family’ and ‘I’m grateful for my friends’ won’t keep your brain on alert for fresh and new grateful moments. Be as specific as you can, for example ‘My partner took me out on a surprise date’ or ‘My housemate prepared dinner for me so I didn’t have to cook after a long day at work.’
Practicing gratitude is essentially a new habit in-the-making, so it is important to find a place and time of the day for your gratitude practice that will suit you well. If you feel exhausted of an evening, perhaps starting your morning with your gratitude practice will work well for you. If you struggle to find a quiet space, wait for the kids to go to bed, or sit in the backyard away from the loud television, so you can enjoy your gratitude practice in a quieter environment.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are almost endless. It is a mood booster and feels great in the moment, and you’re likely to feel closer to your friends and family. Research shows that keeping a gratitude journal (a place to record what you are grateful for) can significantly increase wellbeing and satisfaction of life. Other research shows that people who practice gratitude have a greater sense of feeling connected to others, a more optimistic view towards life and a lower stress response.
So, how can you start practicing gratitude in your daily life? Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Journaling: Buy yourself a book or a notepad so you can write or draw things you are grateful for. Date each entry and jot down as little or as many things you feel grateful for at that moment. Feel free to have a flick through your journal every once in a while to reflect on all of the wonderful things that have come your way.
- Gratitude Jar: All you will need is an empty jar, some paper and a pen. Each time you are grateful for something, write it on a small piece of paper, fold it up and place it in the jar. At the end of the week, month or year you can empty the jar and review everything you have been grateful for in your life so far.
- Letters: It is lovely to be grateful for someone in your life through personal reflection. Why not express your gratitude to that person too? Writing them a letter of your gratitude and appreciation will be sure to brighten their day (and yours!).
- In Conversation: Try sharing the day’s grateful moments around the dinner table. The conversations that follow may give you even more reasons to give thanks.
- Taking Pictures: Set yourself a mission to photograph the little things in your everyday life that make you smile. Is it the lemon tree in your backyard? Or the bright flowers you walk past every day on your way to the bus stop? Perhaps it’s your pet, or something as simple as your favourite mug. Try creating an album or a collage of these snaps for you to reflect on later.
Remember, gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the ‘big’ things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life, and recognising that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.
- Berkland, B.E. et.al. (2017), A Worksite Wellness Intervention: Improving Happiness, Life Satisfaction, and Gratitude in Health Care Workers, Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, 1(3): 203-210, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30225418>
- Carpenter, D. (2019), The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life), Happify Daily, < https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/>
- Conlon, C. (2019), 40 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude, Lifehack, <https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/40-simple-ways-practice-gratitude.html>
- Miller, J. (2016), 8 Ways To Have More Gratitude Every Day, Forbes, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2016/07/08/8-ways-to-have-more-gratitude-every-day/#aef583d1d546>
- Reach Out Australia (2019), The how and why of practising gratitude, ReachOut.com, <https://au.reachout.com/articles/the-how-and-why-of-practising-gratitude>