November is gratitude month, so we thought we’d get in early and share our top tips for how to embrace the conscious, positive emotion that exudes when you’re feeling thankful for something – that is the art of being grateful.
Can you think of the last time you felt grateful for something or someone? What was it? How did you express your gratitude?
More importantly, how did your gratitude affect other areas of your life? Did you feel a little extra bounce in your step? Were you happier? Did you have a more optimistic outlook toward the future?
Practising gratitude can be a game-changer: it has far-reaching effects, from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins—like the train showing up right on time when you’re late, a stranger holding the door for you while you wrangle the kids and your online shopping, or the sun shining through your window when you wake up in the morning. Each of these small moments strings together to create a web of well-being that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good.
Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult. It just takes practice. The more you can bring your attention to that which you feel grateful for, the more you’ll notice to feel grateful for!
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity … it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
So, how do you start to practice gratitude?
Robert Emmons, psychology professor and gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that there are two key components of practising gratitude:
- We affirm the good things we’ve received
- We acknowledge the role other people play in providing our lives with goodness
Most of us are taught from a young age that it is important to say thank you to people who help us, give us a gift or extend a nice gesture, or in moments of solitude acknowledge the things we are grateful for. But experiencing gratitude at its core requires a conscious effort. How many times have you said ‘thank you’ without taking a moment to actually feel grateful? Gratitude is a much fuller experience than just showing good manners (which are obviously very important). It’s also a conscious practice that research shows benefit us greatly, practicing gratitude has been linked to strengthening your immune system, improving sleep patterns, feeling more optimistic and experiencing more joy and pleasure, plus helping with mental health as a whole.
Ready to dive in? Check out our favourite 5 ways to practice daily gratitude.
Take 15 min out of your day to recall and write down the things you are grateful for and the things you enjoyed during your day. Recalling moments of gratitude associated with your normal day-to-day activities is a great start to weaving a theme of gratefulness into your life and making you more aware of what’s good in life, in turn making you more optimistic. We also love these gratitude packs that will get you well on your way to practising gratitude daily.
2. It’s OK to remember the bad times.
To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember any of 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 the perfect start to embracing the things you are now grateful for.
3. Use your senses to feel good
On days when gratitude feels difficult to muster, tune into your senses. This invites you to cultivate thankfulness by slowing down and noticing what you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. There doesn’t have to be anything special going on in order to practice gratitude—it could be as simple as feeling grateful for your morning coffee, a big hug from a loved one, or a good book. Explore this simple practice to appreciate the little things.
4. Use your breath to anchor yourself in the moment
Our minds are so used to being overloaded with work stresses, a never-ending to-do list and the stresses that life brings with it. By bringing particular attention to your breath and taking a quiet moment to relax your shoulders and focus on your breath it is easier to open your mind (and heart) to feelings of gratitude. If you need a little help Sarah Blondin’s guided meditation and breathwork ‘Blessing the body, mind and spirit’ is a great start
5. Shift to noticing and appreciating objects around you.
Now take a moment to look around: Look down, look up, and from side to side. Appreciate how much effort must have gone into the skyscrapers towering over you as you make your way to work. Or the busker filling the air with music, sharing their love and skills with you to bring a smile to your day. Remind yourself that the little things, the little moments aren’t actually so little and being grateful for these moments can change the tone of your whole day.
Gratitude is, without question, a great emotion to cultivate and embrace. By practising it daily you can make it into a habit that will eventually become a trait. Don’t forget that practice and patience are the key ingredients to living life with a grateful heart and with Gratitude month just around the corner it’s a great time to start!