7 ways to practice gratitude and be grateful every day

Do you feel unable to appreciate beauty, affection, and kindness in your environment and the people around you? Are you obsessed with the things you don’t have, instead of feeling grateful for what you do have, and the people who love you? Would you like to improve the molecular structure of your brain and optimize the functioning of your mind, to be healthier and happier?

Stay with me because I am going to present seven exercises to develop your gratitude so that you can improve your social relationships, get better physical health, psychological stability, better self-esteem, and greater mental strength.

Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can improve your life in many ways. Several studies have shown that the feeling of gratitude can help us keep away depression and other negative states of mind. These findings state that it’s unlikely to feel depressed or sorry for yourself when you are focused on feeling grateful.

The Center for Consciousness and Attention Research at the University of California reports that expressing gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter working, and makes us healthier and happier. When you practice gratitude, you generate feelings of happiness, and your central nervous system responds positively, leading you to be more relaxed and less stubborn.

Several other studies around the world have shown that the practice of gratitude has real health benefits because it helps improve your mood and personal sense of well-being.

While it’s not always easy to be grateful for all the things in your life, it’s a rewarding practice that you’ll want to learn. You just need to start practicing gratitude every day. Join me as I present some simple methods you can use to get started today.

1. Choose a positive attitude by appreciating what you have.

To maintain a positive attitude, start by avoiding wasting your energy on comparing yourself to other people, wishing you were someone else, had the car, clothes, or someone else’s appearance. Instead, just close your eyes and explore what you do have. Focusing on the positive will help you set aside the game of comparison and profoundly value what you possess.

Be genuinely grateful for what you have, regardless if it’s much or little; because this simple act will help you improve your mood immediately.

In a study of gratitude by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, all participants were asked to write a few sentences each week on particular topics. One group wrote about events for which they were grateful that had happened during the week. A second group wrote about daily problems or situations they disliked. And the third group wrote about events that had affected them (without emphasizing if they were positive or negative). After ten weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer doctor visits than those who focused on the sources of suffering.

Go out to the park, sit in the sun, and take a moment of silence to appreciate what you have in life. Enjoy the present moment to the fullest, whether you’re going swimming, walking in the park, hiking, or climbing a mountain. Observing nature will make you see how impermanent your life is and how much you should appreciate all the little things our world has to offer you.

Developing a positive attitude is essential to a satisfying life. Your attitude determines how you react to the situations you face daily, which helps you to be more predisposed to maintaining positive emotions. Besides, the right attitude helps you recognize, accept, and let go of negative emotions from the moment they start to arise, so you don’t let them ruin your day.

2. Make a list of reasons to be happy.

There are many people and things that we usually take for granted and don’t realize their value. So, it’s necessary to pay more attention to all the reasons why we should be happy.

Start by thinking about the little aspects of your life that go unnoticed. For example, it’s easy to overlook basic things like having air to breathe, the feeling of the sun on a warm spring day, having food and shelter, and the sweet melody of your favorite song among thousands of other small things that make your life enjoyable.

What other elements come to your mind for which you would like to be more thankful?

Write them down in a list that you can review every day, especially when you get annoyed by trivial situations.

Add to your list the people who are by your side when you need them. Be thankful for your friends. Many people take their friends for granted. They think that those people are meant to be there, like the sofa in the living room or the tree in the garden. But that’s not the case. If you take your friends for granted and don’t show them how valuable they are to you, as time goes by, you have the risk that they will gradually get out of your life. So, every time you enjoy your friends’ company, think about how much these people mean to you, the things they have done for you, and how lucky you are to have them in your life.

Appreciate your family. In most cases, a family is one of the most powerful connections we can form in our lives. Take the time to tell your family how much they mean to you. If they don’t live near you, you can call them or write them a sincere letter expressing your appreciation.

And if you are a person, like many of us, who have suffered trauma caused by members of our own family, learn to forgive. Forgive sincerely to feel good about yourself. Keep in mind that whatever difficult situation you’ve had to face has allowed you to be the person you are now, stronger and more resilient, and that’s one more reason why you can choose to be thankful. And remember that there are friends and people close to you, who are willing to consider you as part of their family.

Be thankful for all the good acts done on your behalf. Throughout your life, picture how many people have contributed to you, so that you could get to where you are now. How many hours of hard work went into making sure you were growing up strong, healthy, and going to school. Understand that you couldn’t be where you are now if it weren’t for all these people who helped you and were present during your childhood and other critical stages of your life.

Health is something else that people often take for granted, and it’s something you have to think about the next time you find yourself complaining. Of course, you may have lost your cell phone or argued with your best friend, and those situations are very annoying, but you will overcome them and fix them sooner or later. What’s not so easy to overcome is a debilitating physical condition that can completely change the course of your life. So the next time you feel like the world hates you, be glad you have a healthy body and mind. Many people are not so lucky, and they manage to be grateful anyway.

Value how privileged you are for having the opportunity to go to school, go to work, hang out with friends, or because you have the financial means to buy that new jacket that you love so much. Not many have the opportunity to travel or study something they like. Chances are, there are many things you can do, that others cannot even dream about it. Think that in some countries with extreme poverty, children struggle every day to get water and food. And even in your city, there may be young people who don’t see it possible to get a pair of new shoes to wear. While it may be true that certain people have more opportunities than you, that doesn’t mean you should live in bitterness or jealousy about it. Make sure you are grateful for the few or many opportunities available to you and do what is in your hands to take advantage of them.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

In a study conducted by scientists Emmons & McCullough in 2003, it was discovered that there are many benefits in keeping a gratitude journal. The study showed that people who kept a journal where they wrote specific reasons to feel grateful, reported fewer symptoms of physical pain, felt more well-being in their lives, exercised more regularly, were more optimistic, and made more progress toward achieving their goals.

To keep a gratitude journal, all you have to do is to get a notebook or create a digital document and commit to writing at least three things for which you feel grateful each day. If you find it challenging to begin writing, you can start by feeling grateful to be alive. Then you can continue writing about something you have at hand in that moment, such as the glass of water you just had, the blanket that warmed you during the night, or the shower you just took.

Identify an object or skill you possess, visualize for a moment how you would feel if you didn’t have it, and then feel thankful for it. This visualization also applies to people who are close to you; imagine what your life would be like without them, and recognize the value they provide to you.

You can achieve a positive mental attitude by paying more attention to what you have in your life and thinking less about what you don’t have. Be sure to explain how each element you write makes you feel and why you are thankful for it.

For example, write: “I am grateful for my home. My house shelters me and protects me. It gives me a sense of relief to know that there is always a comfortable place that I can go back to after a busy day.”

Your body, your food, your clothes, your home, the air you breathe, the cold water that satisfies your thirst, your ability to see, hear and feel, your ability to read, communicate, and move. There are many reasons to be thankful. Do your best to write three different things every day. So, as you strive to find new specific reasons to be grateful for, your journal will become more challenging as time goes by. You will develop greater awareness and ability for appreciation, and you will find more and more things that you took for granted or perhaps never noticed before.

4. Express your gratitude honestly.

You may feel very grateful for your friends, your family, your health, and the different circumstances in your life, but it’s not always easy to express it. The simplest thing is to start by being kind, open, and helpful. Write and read a thank-you letter to someone who has done something meaningful for you. Strive to communicate to people that you value them.

Another leading researcher in this field, Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of several positive psychology interventions on 411 people divided into different groups. Each participant was given one writing assignment per week, while they tracked physiological indicators related to their happiness levels. The group who wrote and read out loud personally, a thank-you letter to someone who they had never thanked before, immediately showed an enormous increase in happiness scores. This impact was higher than all other happiness-seeking strategies and also lasted the longest.

Do you realize how crucial it is to express your gratitude and appreciation to people?

Say “thank you” to strangers in certain situations. Thank the girl who serves you coffee in the morning. Thank the cashier at the grocery store. It is not only polite to say thank you to people, but it will also put you in a more positive state of mind.

Sometimes thanking strangers can be easier than saying thanks to the people you love the most. However, it’s essential for your loved ones to feel appreciated and valued. 

Also, by directly expressing your gratitude to your family and friends, your close relationships will be strengthened, and you will feel happier. Write them a positive message, leave them a note, or invite them over for coffee as a sign that you are grateful for what they have done for you.

5. Include an act of kindness in your life every day.

Enjoy doing favors for your friends. Ungrateful people are selfish, and they only relate to people from whom they think they can “get” something. So, turn that around and offer to do something simple for someone else, even if they haven’t asked you to.

Maybe a co-worker has had a busy day, and you can share lunch with him; maybe your friend needs help choosing a dress for a special event. Focus on the person, and you’ll see that whatever the task, helping others will give you satisfaction.

Also, when you help others, you’re making a long term investment because you never know when life might give you a setback; and in those difficult times, some of the people you helped in the past may show up for you. 

Sharing your time and devoting attention to older people is an excellent opportunity to perform an act of kindness. Be kind and helpful to them. Stop thinking that visiting grandma or grandpa is just a waste of time. Listen to older people, appreciate their insight, and be aware that they won’t be here forever. Enjoy the precious time you spend with your grandparents if you’re still lucky enough to have them. If not, be kind to older family members and show them how much you appreciate their wisdom and love.

Someday, you’ll be old too. How would you feel if your grandson spent his time staring at his cell phone and counting the minutes to go out and meet his friends at the mall, instead of having a meaningful conversation with you?

Volunteering is another way to show how grateful you are for all the things the world gives you. Whether you help clean up a local park, work in a soup kitchen, or teach children and adults in your community how to read, you’ll become a more thankful person if you give your time to less fortunate people and watch their lives improve.

You should not always keep your acts of kindness to close friends or family members. You can do random acts of kindness. Help a neighbor look for a lost dog. Help the waitress clean up the spilled coffee. Help an older woman do her shopping. Sometimes these opportunities present themselves and you don’t have to go looking for them. But when they do arrive, you should be ready to act generously, and feel satisfied and grateful that you can participate and help improve the world by doing your part.

6. Appreciate yourself, value your efforts, and celebrate your results.

Avoid living as a victim. Ungrateful people always blame the world for their problems and think that nothing bad that happens is their fault. If you want to be a grateful person, then you have to stop thinking that the world, your teachers, your boss, your friends, or your family, are all against you. It’s better to take responsibility for your words and actions.

Remember that gratitude is about being aware of what you have, not what you don’t have. Being in the present moment can help you reflect on what is really important in your life. Too much focus on the past or future can lead to feelings of disappointment, anxiety, and even fear.

That’s why it’s a better idea to interrupt negative thoughts and think about what you have right now. Also, remember that mistakes and hard times have surely taught you something useful. Therefore, you can also be grateful for the adversities that have contributed to the person you are today.

Be thankful for the skills you possess, from the basic ones like walking, cycling, and reading, to those special talents that make you a unique person. Enjoy the activities that make you feel happy, even if you might not be an expert, such as dancing, singing, or writing. Recognize the traits that shape your personality, such as your ability to listen, to encourage people, or to share what you have. Don’t forget to celebrate each of your accomplishments, and be proud of yourself for achieving them.

7. Make gratitude a comforting habit.

Practice gratitude at the same time every day to make it a habit. Whether you write in your journal in the morning, after getting up or at night before going to bed, having a schedule will help you maintain this new habit. Try to choose a time of the day that works best for you, that allows you to meditate and give thanks for the positive moments you’ve enjoyed that day.

After writing something down in your journal, close your eyes and visualize what you have written, and experience a deep sense of gratitude. Put yourself back in the situation and express in your diary what you saw, smelled, tasted, or felt. This way, you can recreate the chemicals your brain released at that moment and thus recreate the good feelings.

Remember that several scientific studies have shown that stress, anxiety, or depression cannot be present at the same time as gratitude and acceptance. In other words, a mind full of gratitude cannot feel anxiety or depression. 

What other exercises of gratitude have you applied in your life?

Training your gratitude will help you improve your ability to handle life’s adverse experiences. Being grateful makes us stop complaining, so we can focus more on the things that make us happy.

Learn to appreciate and value the positive side of each situation. Identify your negative thoughts, accept them for what they are, just ideas, and let them go. Bring a positive attitude into your mind by appreciating all the good you have.

And if you want to go a step further, pick up the phone right now and call someone to express your gratitude sincerely. Be thankful for the most significant things the person has done for you, and describe how their actions have impacted your life for the better.

We all can develop a gratitude attitude. Having a grateful mind is one of the easiest ways to improve your life satisfaction and foster more favorable circumstances so that you can enjoy life to the fullest.

☞ References:

  • http://ei.yale.edu/what-is-gratitude/
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html?_r=2#
  • https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
  • https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/2Wood-GratitudeWell-BeingReview.pdf
  • https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/my-personal-gratitude-journey-how-being-grateful-transformed-my-life-wcz/
  • https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

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