Did you know that November is National Gratitude Month? It’s probably no coincidence that it comes during a cozy and festive time of the year. Practicing gratitude is an exercise of the mind that can be implemented anywhere, right from where you stand.
“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” – David Steindl-Rast
While thinking happy thoughts and being thankful for the blessings in your life (no matter how small) is a popular activity during Thanksgiving with friends and family, it’s something that can be done throughout the entire year. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to share this practice with anyone. Practicing gratitude can be a solo endeavor.
Why Practice Gratitude
Whether you struggle with mental health or are completely healthy, studies on gratitude have shown that those who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. It may take some time to see the benefits emerge in your life, like a few weeks or months, but the results of a practice in feeling grateful are real. If you start today, imagine where your life can be one year from now.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
Oprah hit the nail on the head. Feeling as though you have a lack of blessings in your life will result in more circumstances that prove that lack. However, feeling grateful and joyful for what you ALREADY have, however small it may seem at this moment, will bring more reasons to feel grateful and joyful. It is a law of the universe.
The studies that have been conducted over the years by top universities resulted in research that shows the benefits of cultivating gratitude regularly can result in:
- Positive emotions
- Improved physical and mental health
- Stronger relationships
- Ability to handle adversity more effectively
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced stress, burnout and symptoms from PTSD
- Reduced anxiety & stress
- Better self-esteem
- More optimism
What To Be Grateful For
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle
You may be thinking, “That sounds great, Eckhart Tolle, but I don’t have anything to be grateful for.” First of all, we can ALL identify something that creates joy in our lives. Most noteworthy for today, Veteran’s Day, is being thankful for the men and women in uniform. Second of all, if you think you have nothing to be grateful for, all the more reason to start a gratitude practice. Start small, and soon you will receive more reasons to be grateful, which will beget more gratefulness! Here are a few ideas we bet you can use to get started:
- Living – The fact that you were able to wake up means you are alive. That makes you better off than many other people.
- Shelter – If you have a roof over your head, you are better off than many who don’t.
- Food – Do you have food in your refrigerator and in your home?
- Family – Many people are living alone. If you have family members to turn to for love and support, you are a blessed being.
- Friends – Having a friend or group of friends means you are a loving and relational person. Feel grateful for them that they are in your life.
- Senses – Do you have the ability to taste, hear, smell, and see? What do those senses allow you to experience that brings you joy? Do you love the taste of pizza? Did you hear a funny joke? Do you smell flowers? Did you see those flowers?
How To Practice Gratitude
Make practicing gratitude a regular habit. Whether you prefer to go it alone or to sit down with family members and turn it into a weekly bonding activity is up to you. Here are some exercises to get you started:
- Thank-You Notes/Letters – Surely there is someone in your life who would love to receive a handwritten note from you in the mail. Just thank him or her for being a friend. If it’s a family member, let them know how much you love being related. Not only will handwriting your gratitude reinforce the thankfulness in your own heart, but expressing it to someone else will increase their own joy. Texts and emails are wonderful, but the next time you feel grateful for something or someone, a short note will be a benefit to you both. Write a letter to yourself once in a while as well. You deserve it!
- Gratitude Journal – You don’t need an expensive notebook or a fancy pen but make it a daily habit to note the things you noticed that brought you joy. Maybe someone let you cut in line at the drive-thru. Maybe a front-row spot opened up just as you pulled into the grocery store parking lot. If it made you smile or feel good, jot it down. Do you have a habit of forgetting these things by the day’s end? Use a voice recorder on your smartphone to record a quick reminder until you can get it down on paper.
- Gratitude Jar – Get a large glass jar and keep slips of paper and a pen nearby. Every time you think of something for which to be grateful, write it down and throw it in the jar. You will start to see the accumulation of gratitude pile up. When you feel a little down, grab a handful and appreciate some of your previous gratitudes to remind yourself why your life is so fabulous!
- Gratitude Rock – Find a small rock that you can easily carry around in your purse or pocket, or set it on a surface that you frequently look at throughout your day. Whenever you see or touch the rock, pause and think about something you are grateful for at that moment. At the end of the day, look at the rock and remember all the various gratitudes you stopped and paused for throughout the day. Side note: Remember to remove the rock from your pocket before doing laundry!
- Meditation – Intentional quiet time, stillness, or prayer on a regular basis is an important component of giving your spirit space to find and reflect on gratitude. Whether it is 30 seconds or 30 minutes, a meditation practice of some sort is an important part of generating more gratitude in your life.
- Prayer – Those who are religious use the power of prayer and can find similar results. God loves receiving thanks from His followers for His blessings. He also likes receiving thanks for things you don’t yet have, but want. Act like you already received them. He may surprise you.
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