5 Ways to Practice Daily Gratitude & Why It's Important
All of us have a memory of a grandparent or guardian figure in our life telling us to ‘count your blessings’ in some sense of the phrase.
And you know what? They were onto something.
You’ve probably heard of this saying thank you and why that’s important, but what we’re talking about goes beyond just remembering to be polite. Gratitude has become its own kind of phenomenon in wellness. (And no, it’s not meditation.)
It is a mental tactic that can improve your inspiration and motivation, as well as get you on that wellness lifestyle full of happiness and bliss.
Surprisingly, the one thing that could substantially improve your mental health includes practicing gratitude. What are you grateful for?
Undeniably, mental health has taken the stage when it comes to healthcare. We’re realizing more and more that the mind and body are linked - in more ways than we ever thought. We’re also realizing that it’s important to take care of the mind, similar to how we take care of our bodies.
Practicing gratitude is part of that.
What is Gratitude?
It may sound obvious, but gratitude is all about being grateful - we are all grateful for something (even though in the most trying times it can be hard for some to find gratitude!) But no matter how tough times are, there is always something to be grateful for - our good health, our loved ones, simply the air we breathe and the food we eat!
The truth is, the more we practice gratitude, the happier we become. When we tell ourselves there is always something to be grateful for, rather than focusing on the negatives, we naturally fill ourselves with positive energy and this energy then radiates outwards.
There is not a single person on earth who has nothing to be grateful for. Think about it - what are you most grateful for in your life? The more you think about things you are grateful for and notice how much you begin to generate positive energy within!
Does Gratitude Affect Our Brains?
Gratitude may be a thought process, but the truth is that it takes the mind, body, and soul to truly feel and think gratitude. Gratitude is all about what we feel happy for in our lives and happiness is one of the most powerful feelings that emits from our soul and soars throughout our whole body.
So essentially, the core aspects of our needing to work together in order to experience this wonderful feeling of gratitude.
The effects of gratitude on our minds are profound, having a positive effect on our mental health. It’s not all about feelings or self-assessment. Practicing gratitude can change your brain and the way it works.
In one study, they found that participants had significantly improved mental health within just four weeks of practicing gratitude on a regular basis.
When you practice gratitude, your brain actually begins to process information differently. This gives way to why people who are appreciative and grateful for their life have such a positive attitude when it comes to - well - just about everything else.
5 Ways To Practice Gratitude More Often
What’s more, it doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day - a few minutes here and there. You can even practice it anywhere - at home, while going for your morning walk, on the bus - anywhere, really!
You could even turn it into a daily exercise with your friend or partner, asking each other what you feel grateful for today. This type of teamwork can make practicing gratitude even more fun.
Below are 5 ways you can implement the practice of gratitude into your daily life.
1. Practice It Every Morning
What do you feel grateful for each day? Get into the habit of thinking of things you are grateful for as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Glance around and make a list - how many can you find?
Why not try…
- I feel grateful to be alive!
- I feel grateful for this sunny day!
- I feel grateful for that delicious smell of breakfast!
- I feel grateful for being able to express myself through clothes.
Even for the small things, the things that feel silly to get excited about, the things you never think about - finding gratitude in them is a great way to reset your mindset. Getting into this habit immediately generates positive energy in your body - and this can be especially helpful if you’re one of those who is moody in the mornings!
2. Say Thank You - And Mean It
Showing appreciation for things you are thankful for is a wonderful, natural way to practice gratitude. When someone offers you help or does you a favor, saying, a heartfelt “Thank you” can warm your heart and theirs! Similarly, simply saying “Thank you” to the universe each morning can start your day off on a bright note.
Saying thank you is not just good for the one hearing it. It is good for you too. We feel good when we make others feel good, and showing our thanks and appreciation in this way is no different.
3. Keep It Simple
Try not to overthink! You don’t need to have grand ideas about what to be grateful for - the smallest thing works (trust me on this). “I am grateful for the air I breathe” or “I am grateful for this cup of tea” are just as effective as “I am grateful for my new car!”
When it comes to gratitude, material things have very little to do with it. It’s all about what makes you feel grateful as a human being and there are many things in the spiritual, emotional, and physical world that contribute to this.
4. Notice The Little Things
What are you thankful for? Appreciate each moment. Be more mindful - after all, that’s what living a true wellness lifestyle is all about.
That bird in the grass is alive and well. The tree that stands in the field is an emblem of life and a pure beacon of nature. The man in his little shop across the road works hard every day to ensure you receive your essentials.
The little things truly make up the biggest things in life. We just have to stop for a while and take time to notice them
5. Focus On What is in Front of You
Despite what you may have been told, recognizing where you are fortunate and where others are not is not a good way to find gratitude. This relies on focusing on others or comparing ourselves to what we perceive as downfalls. This also opens us to doubt because we may have your own individual struggles that others do not.
We must empathize with other people, and ensure that we are assisting others that are struggling, but gratitude comes from within. Be grateful for what we have created and how far we have grown.
When we recognize where we are blessed and fortunate, we naturally feel greater gratitude for what we have and we don’t focus so much on what we don’t have.
Gratitude begins within: Here are 5 ways to stop comparing yourself to others.
4 Ways That Gratitude Benefits Our Minds
1. Gratitude Enhances Generosity
Researchers tested their theories about this. They used an fMRI to scan brain activity and to find out what was happening below the surface.
Participants performed a pay-it-forward task. This involved being given money from another person. The person who gave the money would then tell them to pass it on if they felt grateful. The participant would then decide on an amount to pass on.
Interestingly, they found that the individuals who felt more grateful were more likely to pass on more money. In fact, researchers noted an increased neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part of the brain is frequently related to an individual’s decision making and learning abilities.
2. Gratitude Brings Happiness
Research shows that expressing and receiving gratitude releases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, two chemicals that are responsible for our emotions and bring us happy vibes.
As such, constantly practicing gratitude means we can create a permanent state of happiness within ourselves.
In conjunction with this study, these same researchers also noticed that those who practiced gratitude for a long duration also had more activity in this medial prefrontal cortex area of the brain. This means that practicing gratitude actually has long-term effects, impacting your brain in a positive way.
3. Gratitude Centers Us
Gratitude keeps us grounded and focused by reminding us of all the goodness that exists in this world and the opportunities that we have in our hands.
Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, says there are two key components to gratitude:
“First, it affirms goodness. Second, it affirms that goodness exists outside of ourselves.”
When the world becomes particularly bleak, it can be good to remember Mr. Emmons’ words!
4. Gratitude Makes Us Healthier
Get this - researchers also have noticed a higher amount of activity in the hypothalamus in those that practicing gratitude. That might not sound like much, but hear me out here.
The hypothalamus plays a critical role in controlling your hormones. In turn, these hormones impact a variety of systems and functions throughout your body, including body temperature, eating, sleeping, and more.
This means that it could go as far as to help improve your sleep, your pain levels, your immune system, and a lot more.
What Are You Grateful For?
Don’t wait until the morning - start right now. Write down 5 things you are grateful for (or more!) The more you practice gratitude, the easier you will find it to think of things to be grateful for. It’s there in the research and in the science - and you’ll also feel a sense of knowing within you.
As you practice gratitude more, you’ll notice yourself becoming a happier and more positive person. Others will notice it too because positivity is energy and people sense energy, even if they cannot see it. Your energy will then help others become more positive too.
And if anyone asks about the secret to your success? Tell them it’s about gratitude - and that the best part about it is, anyone can accomplish it!
Let’s start today! Here are 20 Things You Can Be Grateful For Right Now.