Nowadays, we tend to focus on what we want to achieve or obtain, often forgetting the things we have and enjoy on a day-to-day basis. Practicing gratitude is a way to stop, be mindful, and appreciate what we have.
Why you should practice gratitude
Introducing conscious gratefulness to your life has several benefits. Not only do scientific studies show that it has an impact on our physical and emotional health, but it also helps us improve our relationships and build our self-esteem.
What I particularly like about appreciation is that it allows you to change perspective. For instance, I’ve been complaining a lot about my body throughout my life, thinking it was not good enough. However, changing my perspective and being grateful for everything my body has done for me and endured during all these years, helped me appreciate it in a different way.
Being grateful also allows you to shift from a mindset of lack to one of abundance. Appreciating what you have will allow you to welcome more things you enjoy into your life.
How to practice gratitude
1. Review the day
There are many ways to be grateful. I like to review the day just before going to sleep and try to find as many things as I can for which I’m grateful. Often, they are small things like the fact that I was able to have an interesting conversation with my elder son or that I was able to complete a task at work that had been on my to-do list for a while. This ritual can also easily be practiced with children. I like to prompt my little to tell me about his day when I put him to bed, which can be an opportunity to teach him to appreciate things.
2. Gratitude journal
Writing a gratitude journal or list is a nice ritual that has many benefits and can be easily added to your routine. Even 5-10 minutes a day spent on counting your blessings can already have a positive impact on your life. I particularly like the idea of writing down things I am thankful for because you are able to refer back to them any time (e.g., when you feel down). Also, after a while, you will be amazed at how many positive things – which you might have missed without writing them down – happen in your life.
3. Gratitude jar
Another way of being thankful is to create and maintain a gratitude jar. You could start a personal gratitude jar or create one for the whole family. For smaller children, you could even turn it into a fun activity. You could craft a “gratitude box” or create a “gratitude jar” that you decorate. Then, everyone in the family can add “gratitude notes” to it about things they are thankful for (younger children can draw instead of writing). The box or jar can be placed in a common room as a reminder of all the good things that happened.
4. Express gratitude to others
In our day-to-day life, we sometimes take people for granted. Practicing gratitude can also have a great impact on your relationships. Usually, even if we express our appreciation to our loved ones, we tend to make it in a very general and automatic way. Declarations such as “I love how you are considerate of other people” or “I really enjoy how you make me laugh” are much more meaningful than the usual “I love you”.
Similarly, we should not hesitate to show your appreciation to colleagues, neighbors, or friends – acknowledging other people’s contribution and support will certainly strengthen your relationships.
Smiling is a beautiful, powerful way of expressing and, most of all, feeling gratitude. If we pay attention, we realize that there are many reasons to smile around us: the beauty of a flower, a landscape; our children playing (or sleeping!); remembering a funny situation; the satisfaction of an accomplished task; you name it.
You might find it difficult at first if you are not used to it but, actually, even a fake smile has a positive effect on your mood and thoughts so why not practice in front of the mirror?
Do not hesitate to share anything you can offer with others. It could be material things but also your time or knowledge. Being generous means being grateful for having something and sharing it with others. Not only will your gesture have a positive effect on someone else’s life but knowing that you are helping others will also give you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Mindfulness is one of the best ways to be appreciative. Contrary to other techniques, which let you express appreciation retroactively, mindfulness allows you to appreciate something consciously and in the present moment. In addition, mindfulness practice allows you to appreciate things that ordinarily go unappreciated. E.g., you can fully savor food through mindful eating or music in all its depth when listening mindfully.
Gratitude and self-love kind of go hand-in-hand. On the one hand, loving yourself is an act of appreciation as you are feeling grateful for what you have: your body, your personality, your uniqueness. On the other hand, practicing gratitude can help you accept yourself more easily and learn to appreciate and even embrace your strengths and weaknesses. Learning to love yourself is a way of elevating the practice of gratefulness to a whole new level that will impact your life in many ways:
Gratitude is a practice that can easily be fit into our daily schedule and from which people around us will benefit as well. It is an opportunity to stop and appreciate what we already have instead of pursuing things we don’t have. By reversing our priorities and focusing on all the good things that happen every day, we also gain more clarity of what we want more of in your life. In today’s society, where many feel entitled, this is a great lesson for us and our children.