Positive Psychology has shown that the simple act of gratitude can have significant mood benefits. Many studies have shown that expressing gratitude can improve your mood, make you more optimistic and resilient and even improve relationships. Also, people who regularly count their blessings are more likely to feel happier and healthier, with lower rates of stress and depression. But what do these Psychologists mean by gratitude and how can you incorporate this practise into your daily life?
What is gratitude
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have. It sounds simple but many aspects of gratitude are forgotten in daily life. For example, we would say thank you for a gift from a friend but would we thank ourselves and feel grateful that we woke up early to exercise? Sometimes we are given a stark reminder of what we should be grateful for, after it’s been taken away. I know I will be very grateful to see and hug my friends and family after this pandemic but did we appreciate that freedom while we had it? When you are in a state of gratitude and practise appreciating everything around you, we start to acknowledge the ‘goodness’ in our lives.
How can I make gratitude part of my life?
Everyone feels and expresses gratitude in different ways. One way I have found works for many people is to write down 2-3 things every day you are grateful for. There are apps that can help with this so you can type into your phone or you could include it in your journal or small notebook. Some people find it easier to complete this task first thing in the morning and start their day on a positive note. I (and many others) like to write my gratitudes before bed, so that I can focus on what I have been grateful for that day. Sometimes it can be hard to think of things you are grateful for, especially if you’ve had a challenging day or are feeling low, but there is always something you can be grateful for, even if it is just that it didn’t rain or you had a message from a friend. After a while, it will be easier to recall the small moments of your day that brought you some joy. It can be fun to read back on these journals and see all the good elements of your life you’ve appreciated from the small (i.e. a great cup of coffee) to the bigger ones (i.e. an exciting new job).
If you don’t think a daily gratitude journal will work for you there are other ways to make gratitude part of your routine. For example, you could create a “gratitude jar” and fill it with notes on different things you’re grateful for. Then, you can take out a note each day and reflect on why you appreciate that element of your life.
To get the most from this practise, as you are writing or reading about what you’re grateful for, really think about what you are grateful for and stay in that moment for a short time. This will help you emotionally connect with what you are wiring, rather than it being a chore.
Some gratitude prompts
Here are some ideas to get you started on what to write in your gratitude journal or log …
- Write about a time you felt really loved
- List three things that make you unique that you are grateful for
- Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned from that/ What made you grateful for this experience?
- List three things that made you smile or laugh this week
- Think about someone who helped to shape you and write about what they mean to you
- Describe your favourite moment from your day or week
- Reflect on your happiest memory from this year/your childhood
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson