Gratitude: not just a single-serve holiday accessory to pack away with the gravy boat after Thanksgiving. This week, the #TRN digs into why and how to start a year-round daily gratitude practice. Spoiler alert: it’s excellent for your health.
The benefits of living a grateful life are many, not just because it feels good for those receiving the appreciation. In fact, studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude is associated with several physical and mental health benefits, including:
Improved sleep and relaxation
Overall boosts to mood, psychological stability, and physical immunity
Reduction in anxiety, depression, and chronic pain
We owe much of this holistic health boost to oxytocin, the powerful hormone associated with love, attachment, and trust. So when we choose a life of steady gratitude and acknowledgment of the good, we’re paying it forward to ourselves and others.
Gearing up for Gratitude
The best news about gratitude? There’s no heavy lifting required. The fact is, it doesn’t take much effort or financial investment to incorporate some simple habits into a daily gratitude practice. Let’s take a look at some of the top tactics you can use to get started.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Start simple with a guided meditation through your favorite streaming app or platform. You can find a variety of meditation focus areas like:
Body scans—to help you feel more physically grounded and appreciate the capability and complexities of your own body
Gratitude inventories—to help you notice and acknowledge all of the gifts that bring joy to your life, from your personal relationships to your unique talents
Visualizations—to help you tap into previous positive experiences and emotions or to help you picture serene or inspirational moments in nature
Invite a friend to a yoga or meditation class or a nature walk at a local park. This can be a great option for those of us who have difficulty expressing gratitude for others through words. When we set aside time for mindfulness with loved ones, we’re expressing gratitude for their presence in our lives, even if we don’t feel like we have a way with words.
Writing and Journaling
Start a daily gratitude journal your way. You can keep it minimal with a daily bullet-point listing of things you’re thankful for, or you can go all in with an aesthetic journal and daily writing prompts. (The Gratitude Life Blog has 101 free prompts to get you started!)
Or you could try radiating your gratitude outward with messages to loved ones. These can be as simple as thank you emails to helpful colleagues, or you could bust out the stationery and stamps to express appreciation for the friends and family who supported you this year. (Whose heart doesn’t do a little summersault when you receive a beautiful handwritten notecard in the mail?)
Giving back feels good for everyone involved, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be wealthy to make an impact in the lives of those around you. Start with a simple list of causes that matter to you.
Do you love animals and wish the pets at the local shelter could have a warmer winter? Do you find yourself missing your grandparents around the holidays? Do you want to see more opportunities for kids in your community?
Now, choose a few items in your list and turn them into small tasks you can sprinkle throughout your calendar for the coming year.
Snag an extra blanket or two during shopping trips and bring your bundle of warm bedding to the animal shelter when the temperatures start dropping in the fall. Find a nursing home or homeless shelter where you can sign up and volunteer every month or become a mentor at a local school. When you pay your gratitude forward, you’ll likely have even more things to be thankful for.
Stick With Your Daily Gratitude Practice
We all lead hectic lives and can quickly lose track of the days, leaving an abandoned gratitude journal only halfway full or forgetting about that commitment to daily meditation. Consider building your gratitude practice into your calendar or tasking apps, or you can try habit stacking to pair your gratitude practice with another habit that you never miss.
But the good news is that even if you forget or lose track of your daily goals, you can always come back to gratitude. As Willie Nelson once said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
Thankfulness has the unique quality of being something we give and receive at the same time, multiplying and compounding itself into infinity. We can start small, in our way, on our own time; why not now?
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