It can be hard to feel grateful in the middle of a pandemic, but it can be done! Here are 11 simple and effortless Gratitude Practices You can Start Today.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous
Oh, the times we live in! It’s something none of us would have ever forecast when we were putting together our goals and dreams for the year 2020. Travel plans have been squashed, the academic calendar is all over the place, the availability of supplies fluctuates – sigh!
I could go on and on about everything that’s wrong with this year, and I’m sure you could, too! Have you noticed how easy it is to complain and grumble about our circumstances? Some of us may be experts at it too. Unfortunately, grumbling doesn’t change anything, and we don’t feel any better after doing it.
However, there is something to do instead of complaining. Something that’ll change your entire perspective and put things in a whole new light.
It’s called Gratitude.
Instead of complaining of everything that’s wrong, if you start being thankful for everything that you have, you’ll notice a difference. Suddenly, you have so much. Your health, your loved ones, a roof over your head, food on your table, electricity – you even have a device to read this post!
That’s the magical power of gratitude.
The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness“. It’s a term that encompasses a whole range of feelings. You can be grateful for your baby; you can be grateful for the coffee you had this morning. See? Magic!
But it’s not just magic, science also agrees that gratitude is powerful enough to have a significant impact on your health, relationships and overall well being. Here are just a few of the several findings on gratitude:
- A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology compared two groups of people – one which wrote down things they were grateful for every week, and another which noted down negative events in their life. The first group turned out feeling better – they worked out regularly, had better physical health and were more optimistic about life.
- The Journal of Adolescence did a study among at risk youth aged 12-14 years and found that the children who expressed gratitude more often did better academically and in extracurricular activities, and they were also less likely to get involved in drugs or unsafe sex.
- Another study by the University of North Carolina found that when a person in a romantic relationship expressed gratitude to his or her partner, there was a significant improvement in the quality of the relationship over time.
- A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that when supervisors expressed gratitude to their employees, it instilled a sense of confidence in them, and boosted the overall morale between colleagues.
- The University of Pennsylvania published a study that showed that just one instance of feeling gratitude immediately increased happiness by 10% and reduced depressive symptoms by 35%
These are just some examples, but there are several other studies that show how people who regularly practice gratitude sleep better, have stronger immunity, experience fewer aches and pains and even have more frequent checkups. The best part is that it takes only as little as eight weeks of practicing gratitude for the effects to show.
Now that’s where it gets tricky – how does one practice gratitude? Gratitude is often considered as just a feeling, and not an action that you have to do. Now we understand that this can be confusing for most of us, so we’ve decided to make it simpler for you. With World Gratitude Day coming up on the 21st of this month, we thought it would be the best time to list out some simple gratitude practices that you can include in your life right away. So here we go!
The Magical Power of Gratitude – 11 Gratitude Practices You can Start Today
1. Practice Mindfulness
The first thing you need to practice gratitude is to be aware of everything that you have in and around you, and for that, mindfulness is key. If you practice meditation, you’re already on the right track, but even if you aren’t, just sit down for five minutes every day in some quiet and focus on the moment and everything that’s in it. Start your day with an affirmation to be grateful. Drink your morning coffee while you notice everything – the taste of the coffee, its aroma, the sound of the birds chirping, how soft your shirt feels.
Notice all the little things you’d otherwise miss. Think of everything as a gift for you to enjoy. Find beauty in the most mundane things. Spend any spare time you have to do this and you’ll soon find that it becomes easier for you to actually ‘be’ in the moment.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
I’m sure you’ve heard of a gratitude journal and may be wondering what it is. It’s just what it says it is – a little notebook where you write down what you’re grateful for. Now you can use a physical notebook or a virtual one. You can write down what you’re grateful for every day or every week. The specifics are really up to you.
However, most experts recommend using a physical pen and paper, since that turns your journaling into a much more sensory experience. It also takes more time, making this a deeper process. It’s also great if you can do it every day, either as soon as you wake up or just before bed. Attach it to another habit so you won’t forget, like while having your morning coffee, or right after brushing your teeth at night. Just do it at the same time every day.
When writing in your journal, be as specific as you like. Rather than saying you’re grateful for your family, you can say “I’m grateful for my husband fixing my tyres without me asking him”. This process makes you look for good things even in a bad day, and you realize how lucky you are.
3. Have a Gratitude Inventory
This may sound strange – a gratitude ‘inventory’? Yes, this is going to be a little more than a gratitude journal, and you don’t have to do it every day. It works like this: you make a list of about 100 things you’re grateful for. If it sounds overwhelming, you can try out some gratitude prompts for help. Take some time and really focus on everything in your life to put together your inventory.
Once you’re done, you’ll be surprised at how much you have in your life to be grateful for, and you’ve still got more to write about! You can make this exercise more interesting by adding pictures or doodles. You can maintain the inventory in your journal or planner or even in your laptop. Then whenever you’re having a particularly bad day, take out the inventory and look at it – you are sure to feel much better and more at peace.
4. Create a Gratitude Jar
You may have seen this idea of a gratitude jar around social media. It usually pops up towards the end of the year. To try this, get yourself an empty and dry jar or a box. Now whenever you experience a moment of gratitude, write it down on a piece of paper, fold it and put it into the jar. You can either do this whenever the moment strikes or on a daily basis.
Whenever you feel upset or like nothing is working for you, empty out the jar and read what’s written on those bits of paper. You’ll be surprised at all the amazing things that have happened for you so far, and you’ll feel a little embarrassed for sulking! Some people do it as a yearly exercise, starting with an empty jar on January first and filling it up as the year goes by. At the end of the year, they take out everything and read it for the most lovely recap of the previous year.
5. Have a Gratitude Trigger
This is a simple gratitude practice that doesn’t require too much effort. All you need is something to act as a trigger to prompt you to think about gratitude whenever you look at it. It could be as simple as a rock – yes, a rock! Just get yourself a nice, clean rock and keep it in a place you spend most of your day in, like your desk. You can paint it if you like or leave it as it is. This rock will now act as a symbol of your gratitude practice, it’ll trigger you to be mindful of the current moment. Let that be an opportunity to be grateful for at least one thing at that moment.
If you’re on the move a lot, you can keep it in your pocket, or choose something you can wear, like a certain pendant or ring. Try to make it something you like, so looking at it or touching it generates positive feelings. You could also take it a step further and get yourself a charm bracelet with charms that remind you of the major things you’re grateful for in your life.
6. Go on a Walk
When you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions or a never ending to do list, it can be hard to get into the mindspace to feel grateful. In such situations, it is a good idea to go on a gratitude walk. This is not a walk that’s supposed to be your daily cardio – it should be a much slower and more mindful one!
Wear something comfortable and go for a short walk along a route that’s not too noisy. Notice everything you see with a sense of newness – like you’re actually observing it and not just going over it in a passing glance. Look at the clouds, take in the smells of the nearby bakery, and notice the patterns on a roof or the shine of a car. If you have your phone with you, click some pictures to go over later in the day; they’ll encourage you to go out again the next day.
7. Eat a Mindful Meal
Eating is such a core part of our existence, but it is often saddled with all kinds of complicated emotions and labels. Having food on our plate is one of the primary things to be grateful for, and its’ a great place to start practicing gratitude. Start by making yourself a very simple meal – plain rice, a bowl of oats or just a bowl of fruit. Avoid anything with strong spices or smells.
Now before you eat, send out thanks to everyone involved in getting that food to your table. The farmer who grew the grain and harvested it, the driver who drove the truck, the workers who carried it into the stores, the cashier who sold it to you – thank everyone. This makes you appreciate your food so much more, as simple as it is. You’ll also realize that there are people who barely get even this, and you’ll feel humbled and grateful for all the variety available to you.
8. Say Thanks before Eating
Okay, this might sound similar to the previous point, but this one includes the entire family. Make it a point to spend at least one mealtime a day together, at the table. Lay out all the food nicely, even if it’s not anything fancy. Let everyone keep their devices aside. Once everyone is seated, have each person talk about what he or she is grateful for. Once everyone is done, start the meal.
If this sounds a bit complicated, let each family member simply state one good thing that happened that day. This exercise has so many benefits, beyond gratitude. It’s a great bonding technique for the whole family. It gives you an insight on how the others are feeling, and it’s also an excellent conversation starter when you have extended family over!
9. Show your Gratitude
A gratitude journal or rock are good ways for you to practice gratitude on your own, but it needn’t stop there. There was this really lovely experiment by Soul Pancake, where they recorded the happiness level of a group of people at the beginning. Then they asked the participants to think of someone who had helped them in some way or the other and write down their feelings of gratitude. Then they had to call up the person and read out what they’d written. The participants’ happiness levels were recorded after that and it was found to have increased by up to 19%!
That’s why it’s so important to express your gratitude to the people in your life. As Alfred North Whitehead said, “No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” Thank your family when they do something for you – even if it’s getting a glass of water. Thank your colleagues at work for their help. If you received exceptional service from somewhere or they resolved a problem, write a good review. Thank all those people who work long hours without any appreciation – shop keepers, security guards, bus drivers and others.
10. Find Gratitude in Challenging Times
It’s easy to be grateful and journal about it when things are all hunky dory. However, when tough times come, we’re likely to slide into the complaining mode – like we talked about at the beginning of this post. Yet, that’s when we need to practice gratitude the most.
When you’re going through a difficult time, try to shift your focus by asking yourself a few questions. What can I learn from this? What’s one good thing that’s come out of this? How will this help me improve in the future? Who is by my side during this time? By doing this kind of introspection, you’ll rewire your brain into looking at challenges as an opportunity for growth.
11. Watch what you feed your Soul
You are constantly advised to feed your body with nourishing foods, but are you doing the same for your soul? Part of practicing gratitude is ensuring that you don’t feed yourself with unnecessary, negative thoughts. With social media and 24 x 7 News, we’re constantly getting fed all kinds of negativity – which we can very well do without.
Avoid watching the news or stick to just the headlines at a specific time of the day. Avoid debates at any cost – they do nothing for your mental health. Instead, watch inspiring videos of people doing good things. Print out quotes that you like and put them around your home so they’re a constant reminder of the good in this world. You can also share positive content like this on your own social media channels.
If you are just starting out on a gratitude practice, make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself by trying all these tips at once. Go with the one that appeals to you the most, and is the easiest for you to do in your current lifestyle. Make it as pleasant as you can, picking a time of the day you won’t be disturbed, and maybe lighting a candle or playing some music. Forcing yourself to practice gratitude completely defeats the purpose of the task. As you get better at it, you’ll start realizing how more and more of your gratitude is for the people around you and less for material things. Soon you’ll be at a stage when you can be grateful in any situation, and nothing – not even a worldwide pandemic – can put you down!
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