Studies have shown that cultivating an attitude of gratitude for what we have, however modest, increases our well-being, strengthens our relationships and increases our happiness. Cultivating gratitude in everyday life has even been shown to improve our sleep, which is good for both our physical and mental health.
Here are a few ways to be thankful now and all year round.
Say it out loud
Maybe it’s a quick “Thanks!” to your bus driver or the person in the coffee shop drive-thru, or maybe it’s a heartfelt voice memo or a letter to a loved one. No matter how you say it, being thankful for the people in your life is sure to put a spring in their step – and yours!
Start a gratitude journal
It’s simple – but that’s what makes it brilliant. If you want to make more room for gratitude in your life, start by keeping a gratitude journal. You don’t need a special notebook – you could even use the back of an envelope – you just need to notice things you’re thankful for. Be specific. Provide some detail. And make it a regular habit, whether you spend a bit of time on it each day or you can only manage once a week. Studies with children have shown it to improve their optimism and life satisfaction.
Start a mindfulness practice
A practice like keeping a gratitude journal is a very mindful thing to do, but to take it further, start a mindfulness meditation practice that focuses on gratitude. Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce stress and increase compassion.
There are different ways of practicing mindfulness. Exercising our ability to pay attention is one way. This is the opposite of multi-tasking – focusing on a single thing to the exclusion of everything else.
If you do this while sitting silently for a few minutes, just focusing on your breath, then that is mindful meditation. When your mind wanders, which it will, gently bring it back to your breath. That non-judgmental practice is what meditation is all about. It originated in Buddhist tradition, but is now practised secularly by millions of people. Once you have a mindfulness meditation practice, it’s simple to add an element of gratitude to it.
Savour the world
Gratitude isn’t just about the people in your life, your job or the things you buy – you can also be grateful for the natural world. In fact, spending time outside can give you a much deeper appreciation for everything around you. Try taking some time over the long weekend to go for a walk and appreciate the wonders of the world around you, from the tiniest little lichens to the cloud formations overhead. Use all five senses to find extra things to appreciate.