Gratitude is highly infectious. So much so, that it can diffuse negativity upon first contact. It’s really hard to have a bad day when you’re walking around in a state of thankfulness.
It’s no secret that people who regularly and actively practice gratitude are happier and experience a more positive disposition. What is lesser known is that those same people are more energized with life, more compassionate and kind towards others, sleep better, and even have stronger, healthier immune systems!
Creating a gratitude practice is the easy part. Maintaining it is the more difficult part at first. So here are 4 tips on how to create a daily gratitude practice:
1. Refine your lens.
Find something new in everyday things. Tune in to the small, excruciating details of your life and notice the parts you might sometimes be taken for granted. Being grateful for your family is different than saying something more specific like, “I’m grateful for the way my sister and I always laugh together.” Look beyond the obvious good things in front of you. Taking notice of more of the world can greatly enhance your overall well being. Challenge yourself to notice new things each day.
2. Keep a gratitude journal.
Research by the author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, UC Davis psychologist, Robert Emmons, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal- regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful- can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction. It works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. As you practice, you strengthen the neural pathways that help you find even more things to be grateful for.
Start a gratitude journal by committing to listing three things each day. Think of everything from enjoying a cup of coffee with a few minutes of silence before you started your workday, to a long hot bath and a fresh set of clean sheets. There is nothing too small to be grateful for.
3. Create a practice that is your own.
According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester in their study of intrinsic motivation; one of the biggest factors that help us become intrinsically motivated is autonomy — the ability to do things the way we want. So if journaling is starting to get boring, feel free to try other creative ways to track your grateful moments. You can create a “gratitude jar” or come up with something similar. When you experience a moment of gratitude, write about it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. It immediately makes the moment more meaningful and will make you more conscious of other things you can write about.
4. Be Expressive
Learn the habit of being quick to say “thank you” and “I appreciate this”. People love hearing that they’re being noticed and appreciated. It doubles as practicing gratitude and making someone else feel amazing. Take it one step further with an act of kindness and you just might start a ripple effect that your family and peers can follow.
Sometimes, it’s nature, our home, or other non-human objects that deserve to be thanked. In those moments, simply acknowledge your own appreciation for what they offer. Whether it’s a beautiful sunset or hot water at the turn of a faucet, take a second to smile as an expression of your appreciation
A few moments of gratitude each day can reprogram your brain for the better.