Cultivating gratitude is a very valuable practice that can increase our sense of well-being. It has been linked to increased joy and increased feelings of connectedness.
"Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice. And both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us." - Brene Brown
Practicing gratitude is also associated with changing our mindset from limitation and fear to expansion and love or a full heart. Deepak Chopra encourages us to spend a few moments and consider the things you have in your life that you could be grateful for: all the nurturing relationships, the material comforts, your body, and the mind that allows you to really understand yourself and everything around you. We often take for granted what our bodies allow us to do on a daily basis.
"Just breathe and be grateful for the air that is filling your lungs and making your life possible. Simply feel your body and your aliveness, and acknowledge what a miracle it is just to be alive right now. Allow your awareness to appreciate what you are seeing, smelling, and touching just at this moment and you will find yourself in the middle of the stream of life without trying at all. Feel the love, compassion, and understanding that gratitude brings into your heart. Notice how gratitude brings your attention into the present time, which is the moment in which miracles can unfold. The deeper your appreciation, the more you see with the eyes of the soul and the more your life flows in harmony with the creative power of the universe." - Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Choosing to focus on the good things in life has also been found to be very beneficial in the process of recovery from an eating disorder. Every day at Westwind we have a morning group that clients participate in and they share their gratitudes. The eating disorder often is focused on the negatives in life or the struggles that are happening, so spending time consciously choosing to focus on what is good can help cultivate a positive attitude and strengthen recovery.
There are many different ways to practice gratitude and there is no right or wrong way so we encourage you to do whatever feels best for you. We have provided some tips as well as some options in helping you to cultivate your own gratitude practice.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GET STARTED:
Remember, the goal is to actively practice gratitude, not just wait around to feel grateful. How we start feeling more grateful is in our willingness to practice and as we practice we will cultivate more feelings of gratitude.
The best way to make gratitude a practice is to have variety in the ways we practice. Choose two, three, or all of the exercises below to get you started. Choose those that most resonate with you and try out new methods to see if they are a fit for you. The best gratitude practice for you is the one you will stick with!
It doesn’t matter exactly how often you practice gratitude; what matters is that you do it routinely. Every day, once a week, three times a week–whatever works for you, just stick with it and keep it consistent.
WAYS TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE TODAY Gratitude journal: This is the most common gratitude practice, and one of the most effective according to research. Get yourself a journal and write down things you are grateful for. You can do this each night before bed or in the morning. Again, it is not necessarily how frequently you do it but the consistency with it. For some a daily recording might be valuable and others will do it on a weekly basis. If you do not like writing things down even spending time daily or weekly and taking time to think of all the things you are grateful for.
Post words, photos, and objects of gratitude in your home. This is a great way to get yourself started and keep yourself motivated. Place the items where you’ll see them often, and then let them remind you to stop and be grateful.
Gratitude Letter & Visit: Martin Seligman, father of Positive Psychology, developed this exercise, in which you think of someone who has made a powerful impact on your life, write a letter of gratitude, and then visit and read it to them in person. You can mail it too, but actually doing it in person is one of the most powerful gratitude practices you can do–literally life-changing for many people!
Incorporate gratitude into daily routines: When you are engaging in a routine activity such as doing the dishes or while going on a walk, spend time thinking about what you are grateful for.
Say "Thank You" more often. Just start saying it. For everything. Everyone likes to be thanked, and you will feel more joy just for saying it.
Write Thank You Notes. When someone touches your heart, write them a note. It’s also wonderful to send notes "just because". "Thinking of you and feeling grateful for our friendship" is simple but very effective.
Text your loved ones a message of thanks. "Thanks for making the bed today!" "Thanks for being so kind to your sister this morning!" "I am so grateful to have you in my life!" Simple. Effective. One of the easiest ways to make their day, and yours.
Practice Mindfulness to appreciate each moment. Focus on the present moment. Notice what’s all around you. Use all of your senses: What do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste? Experiencing what is right in front of you is one of the surest ways to keep a grateful heart.
Acknowledge one ungrateful thought per day and then replace it with a grateful one: After you catch yourself thinking, "My co-worker never does her job correctly!" stop and add something grateful. "She really does have a great attitude, though. And I know she’s trying." Learning to hear, question, and alter your thoughts into something more grateful is truly a blessing, for it gives you the power to change your life, one ungrateful thought at a time.
Take a gratitude walk - This is a particularly useful practice when you’re feeling down or filled with stress and worry. Set aside 10-20 minutes and walk in your neighborhood, through a park. As you walk, consider the many things for which you are grateful. Pay attention to your senses—everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting—and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open to the flow of abundance that always surrounds you.
Gratitude is a practice that does not have to take up a lot of time in your day or week but choosing to start this practice has so many benefits and we encourage everyone to give it a try. There are many different aps that can also be utilized to help make this a practice, such as gratitude meditations or aps that allow you to record on your phone that makes it a very convenient way to practice.
Enjoy experimenting with different ways to practice gratitude and cultivate a gratitude practice that works best for you!