I have certainly talked about Gratitude before and will probably never stop. Research by Dr. Robert Emmons, a leader in Positive Psychology Research, shows that those who make a point of practicing gratitude daily show benefits from exercising more, expressing higher levels of happiness in their lives, more optimism about the future, were making steps towards completing their goals, had improved health, increases in energy, and felt more connected to others when compared to a control group. You can visit his page here.
I hear you saying, “Well that’s great and all, but I’m grateful enough I think, and where are all these positive effects?” So here’s the thing, I think we are all passively grateful. We recognize on some level that we might have more than the average person or we inherently know that things could be worse. But that’s really not the same as having a standard gratitude practice. So what are some exercises we can do daily, to make part of our lives to increase our levels of gratitude and leading to increased happiness?
Here’s some ideas:
The gratitude list
This one is easy though it takes commitment. Make a list of 3-5 things every night before bed of what you are grateful for from that day. If you have time to write why you are grateful for this thing, even better. For example: I am grateful for seeing my kids’ smiling faces at the park today. I am grateful for this because it reminds me to slow down and enjoy these little moments with them while they are young.
The gratitude letter
Write a letter to someone in your life whom you have not properly thanked for either something specific that they did for you or something that they have done for you over time. Arrange to either call them or meet up with them in person and read the letter to them, not allowing them to interrupt until you are finished. This particular exercise has shown to increase general life satisfaction for both the writer and the receiver for up to three months.
The gratitude rock
Find a rock. Simple right? Keep it in your pocket or somewhere you will see it regularly. Whenever you notice it, think of what you are grateful for in that moment. Another way to do this is to keep the rock next to your bedside and when you see it at night, think about the best thing that happened to you that day. This forces you to think through all the positive things from the day and decide which one was best.
The gratitude jar
Find a jar. Every day write on 3-5 pieces of paper what you are grateful for from that day and put them in the jar. Watch as the jar fills up with things to be grateful for. If you are having a down day or just need a gratitude “pick-me-up” open the jar and read them.
The gratitude stroll
Go on a walk. Find as many things as you can to be grateful for and think, “I am grateful for …” to yourself as you walk and observe what you see.
Thank You day (you can do this every day)
Challenge yourself to say, “Thank You” as much as you can in one day. Thank all the people in your life and everyone you encounter for any small thing they do for you. Send out “thank you” emails, text messages, or even write thank you notes, etc.
These are just a few that I have tried and/or heard other people tell me that they have found to be extremely helpful. Search around online for more excellent gratitude ideas. There are also a ton of gratitude apps out there now. Many are free. A few I have tried are Grateful, HappyFeed, and 365 Gratitude, though there are many more. Find one that works for you, if having reminders or prompts is more helpful for you. Goal for this week and for weeks to come, find more ways to be grateful. There is nothing to be lost from this practice and only increased joy and love to gain.