What is gratefulness practice?
Gratefulness practice is one of the most powerful forms of practicing mindfulness in your life. Just like with self-love the positive effects are nearly endless: from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins – like the rain stopping right on time for you to go out, a stranger holding the door for you, or a friend calling at the exact moment you needed them. Each of these small moments help you create a web of positive chains of events and strengthens your ability to notice the good. As well as other mindfulness activities, gratefulness practice does not require any specials skills or talents – it just takes time and practice.
Observe your responses
Every time you say “thank you”, how do you actually feel? Annoyed, stressed-out, already moving away to the next interaction in life? Do a quick body scan and examine your feelings for one moment. Next time you are about to say “thank you”, take a deep breath, generate this abundant feeling of true gratefulness, then and only then say what you were going to!
Robert Emmons, psychology professor and gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that there are two key components of practicing gratitude:
- We affirm the good things we’ve received.
- We acknowledge the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness.
As simple as it sounds, we tend to shy away from acknowledging the bright parts of our life as if it was less important. Although, our ability to properly receive things (especially the positive ones) make a huge impact on various areas of our life. It might help strengthening your immune system and improving sleep patterns, feeling optimistic and experiencing more joy and pleasure, being more helpful and generous, and feeling less lonely and isolated.
How to start your gratefulness practice?
Little things aren’t so little any more when it comes to forming a new habit. Giving a smile, saying “good job” to yourself or other person can change the tone of your whole day. These are 7 ways to start practicing gratitude:
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, benefits and good things you enjoy every single day without even thinking. Recalling moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable theme of gratefulness into your life.
- Remember the hardship. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
- Share Your Gratitude with Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. If you find it difficult to think of a compliment or a reason to say thank you – make it into a habit, use every little opportunity to express your gratitude to the world around you and soon these thoughts will come to your head automatically.
- Come to Your Senses. Through our senses – the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear – we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
- Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
- Watch Your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
- Go Through the Motions. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude. By “going through grateful motions,” you’ll trigger the emotion of gratitude more often.
What are the effects of practicing gratefulness?
The first and biggest observation from those who practice gratitude is a boost on mental health. Negative thought patterns, such as self-loathing, anxiety and monkey mind tend to slowly decrease as your habit of practicing gratefulness becomes stronger. This can come into effect as quick as 4 weeks after you start gratefulness observation or gratefulness journaling.
It also helps you accept change. When we are comfortable with the way things already are, it can be difficult to accept when things change – let alone feel grateful for that difference. But when we make it a habit to notice the good change brings, we can become more flexible and accepting.
Gratefulness practice relieves stress. The regions associated with gratitude are part of the neural networks that light up when we socialize and experience pleasure. These regions are also heavily connected to the parts of the brain that control basic emotion regulation, such as heart rate, and are associated with stress relief and thus pain reduction. Feeling grateful and recognizing help from others creates a more relaxed body state and allows the subsequent benefits of lowered stress to wash over us.
Give it a go – declare this month gratefulness month and try to incorporate at least some of the practices mentioned above. Examine and journal your progress along the way. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing some real results that can be measured. And for the very end – this is the one thing we are so much grateful for at the moment: having such a bright and uplifting community of you all!