Giving thanks, gratefulness and gratitude are all different ways of describing a practice that’s come back into fashion in recent years, and for good reason. Practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to keep your spirits high in tough times, as well as to stay grounded when life is good. It is a stressful time for most people right now, so it’s as good a time as any to practice gratitude. With these 19 simple methods, you can get an idea of what it means to practice gratitude and learn how to get started.
3 Ways Gratitude Benefits Our Brains
First, let’s examine why we should be practicing gratitude. Gratitude provides some significant benefits for our brains:
- It can help relieve stress and pain.
Practicing gratitude can help relieve stress and pain by training the brain to be optimistic. When we’re optimists, we tend to focus on what’s good about our situation rather than on what’s bad. This shift in focus is often enough to take some of the burden off our shoulders.
- It can improve our health over time.
Stress is harmful to our health. Not only does gratitude relieve stress, it can also help us sleep better. This study found that positive thinking before bed led to notable increases in sleep quality.
- It can help those who deal with depression.
Being thankful can’t cure depression, but practicing gratitude is an effective grounding technique to help combat negative thought patterns like those associated with depression and anxiety. Since practicing gratitude is essentially casual meditation, its calming and refocusing effects can really help when you’re struggling with depression.
4 Ways to Train Your Brain to Practice More Gratitude
It can be difficult to remember to practice gratitude sometimes, especially when you’re just starting out. But did you know that you can actually train yourself to practice gratitude? The more you practice gratitude, the more you remember to do it. Here are four methods to train your brain to practice more gratitude:
- Take time to notice what’s around you.
This is actually a grounding method. We often get stuck looking forward or back and forget to take in the present. Taking time to notice what’s around you will help your mind slow down and allow you to enjoy more of your daily life by just being present in it. After doing this a few times, it will start to come naturally.
- Practice gratitude for the little things.
It’s rare that we encounter a big event or moment in our day-to-day lives. Rather than wait for those times to be grateful, acknowledge the little things in your life, too. When you consider how grateful you are for, for example, indoor plumbing, you will start to remember to practice gratitude every time you turn on the tap. That’s a lot of opportunities to practice in a day, and it adds up.
- Share your gratitude for your loved ones.
Sometimes we don’t think to express our gratitude for our loved ones, though we may feel it inside ourselves. Thanking the people who support you most is a powerful way to strengthen your connections with them. Plus, it feels good to make others feel good.
- Spread gratitude via your social media platforms.
Why stop being grateful when you go online? A great deal of our lives nowadays are virtual, especially our social lives. Carry your gratitude with you when you login to social media. Be thankful for the people who post cute animal pictures or write things that make you smile. This way you’re continuing your gratitude practice and resisting negativity that can often come from social media.
15 Tips for Practicing Gratitude
In addition to the four brain training methods above, here are 15 more activities to do to help you practice gratitude:
- Keep a daily gratitude journal.
If it helps you to write things down, consider keeping a daily gratitude journal. Journaling is a great way to make time for yourself while having something to focus on rather than just thinking. You can make lists about what you’re grateful for each day, draw something you’re thankful for or maybe write a letter to yourself or others.
- Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Rather than just thinking about how you’re grateful for someone in your life, tell them. Expressing gratitude spreads your positivity to others.
- Notice the beauty in nature each day.
There are so many things in nature to be grateful for. Even if you live in a big city, there’s always something to notice in your environment. The tree you pass on your commute every day might be growing or changing the color of its leaves, for example. Just letting yourself observe the things around you in real time is very helpful for fostering your gratitude practice.
- Nurture the friendships you have; good friends don’t come along every day.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of wishing we had more friends, especially when we’re feeling lonely. Instead of wishing for greener pastures, focus on what good friends you have now. Make an extra effort to be friendly and pretty soon you won’t be feeling lonely anymore.
- Smile more often.
It sounds silly, but smiling can actually make you more happy. You don’t have to have a reason to smile, just smile to yourself as an exercise. This tip is especially useful when you’re having a bad day.
- Watch inspiring videos that will remind you of the good in the world.
It can be as simple as a video of nature or an animal being cute. Taking in positivity will help you become more positive and put positivity out into the world.
- Avoid negative media and movies with destructive content.
Going hand in hand with the last tip, negative media can drag you down. It’s okay to stop watching something that makes you feel bad, even if you have a fear of missing out. Give yourself permission to abstain from media that makes you feel poorly.
- Include an act of kindness in your life each day.
Random acts of kindness are one of the best things you can do for yourself and the world around you. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture every day. Something as simple as putting up a stray shopping cart or picking up and disposing of a piece of litter can really add up and improve your day.
- Call your family members more often.
A call from family out of the blue can make someone’s day. It can also help you maintain your connections to family, especially when you live far apart.
- Cook meals with love; think of the people you will feed.
Food is a necessity, but it’s also a means of connecting with the people you share it with. Cooking for your loved ones is a great way to show you care and to take time to think about what you’re grateful for.
- Volunteer for organizations that help others.
If you want to perform your acts of kindness in a more formal way, volunteering is a great way to do it. Volunteering for organization that help others can make you feel like you’re making a real difference. Activities like this also frequently include lessons in gratitude, intentionally or not.
- Don’t gossip or speak badly about anyone.
Spreading negativity is antithetical to practicing gratitude. If you find yourself in a conversation that is negative, try to steer the topic toward the positives. Avoid the temptation to complain about people you don’t like.
- Spend quality time with your loved ones.
Taking the time to enjoy our loved ones is something we often don’t do enough. Be sure to make time to spend with your significant other or your family. Everyone will benefit from quality time spent together.
- Keep in mind: there is nothing lacking.
The grass is always greener on the other side. It’s important to avoid thinking about what you wish you could have. Instead, appreciate what you already have and focus on improving things if they aren’t working for you.
- Start and end your day with gratitude.
Finally, make gratitude the bookend of your day. When you wake up and before you go to sleep, set aside a few minutes to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude can kick off your day with positivity as well as make a bad day better so you’re not going to sleep thinking negatively.
Now you know how easy it is to practice gratitude. Something as simple as positive thinking can really change your outlook on life and make your days better. It’s also just plain good for you. Not only can gratitude help you sleep better, but it can also ease stress and help fight depression. Practicing gratitude is a good way to stay humble and upbeat, even when things are at their extremes. Start your gratitude practice today and it will be second nature to you in no time at all.
If you would like to learn more about the power of gratitude and positivity, as well as other topics, check out our other articles.