The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
"It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful" ~ David Steindl-Rast.
"I am happy because I am grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy." ~ Will Arnett
Notice a pattern or loop in these quotes? Grateful - joyful - grateful - joyful. One affects the other.
In some way, gratitude and joy can be compared to the egg and chicken saga - which one came (comes) first? It is hard to give a definite answer as, in most cases, one cannot exist without the other - they are intertwined.
Are you happy that you get to go on your dream vacation, or thankful? We would guess both! By being grateful, we experience more joy, and when we experience joy, we are thankful.
But how can we rewire our brains to experience even more joy and less stress in our daily lives? 'Cause let's be honest, most of us cannot go on dream vacations 365 days a year (we wish!)
By making it a daily habit to practice gratitude.
THE PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE
The words 'thank you' have become so habitual in our everyday vocabulary that we often don't take a moment to actually feel thankful.
And this is where gratitude becomes much more than being polite and showing good manners. It forces you to really acknowledge an act of kindness or things going well in your life.
Gratitude not only has a positive impact at the moment but also long-lasting beneficial effects on your well-being and outlook on life.
As Robert Emmons, a renowned scientific expert on gratitude, says, "I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life." "We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life."
He goes on to say that gratitude is an affirmation of goodness in this world. That we acknowledge that other people or higher powers give us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve goodness in our lives.
Benefits of practicing gratitude intentionally
- Gratitude and positive thoughts can induce a sense of relaxation, relieve stress, and create a more relaxed body state.
- Grateful people tend to cultivate better health habits like exercising, eating healthier, avoiding risky behaviors, and getting improved sleep.
- Being thankful can impact your physical well-being by improving the immune system, decreasing blood pressure, and lowering inflammatory biomarkers.
- Optimism that stems from gratitude can create a healing attitude: research shows that people with optimistic attitudes have better outcomes after medical procedures.
- A study in the Journal of Research in Personality found that gratitude and grit confer resiliency to suicide by increasing meaning in life.
- Gratitude can help strengthen relationships with friends, loved ones, colleagues, and communities by being motivated to improve oneself, pay back kindness received, and make decisions that will strengthen relationships.
12 Ways to practice gratitude and be more thankful
Note down or say three good things that happened to you during the day or week------
Make this a daily or weekly practice, no matter how insignificant the things may seem. This can be a fun activity with your kids when they go to bed, at dinner with family, or simply expressing them aloud when you're alone.
Keep a gratitude journal------
Jot down the moments from your day that mattered or made you feel good and thankful. When you're having a rough day or going through troubles, you can look back through your journal pages and reflect on all the blessings in your life. Try to be specific on what you are grateful for and elaborate on the details.
Say thanks to your partner and loved ones more often------
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a simple act we tend to neglect because we take people for granted. Couples and families that express gratitude toward one another regularly set up a powerful feedback loop of intimacy, trust, appreciation, and paying it forward.
Remember to thank yourself------
Thanking yourself for all the good and healthy habits you cultivated in your life can instill a sense of self-love and self-confidence. In return, motivating you to want the same for others.
Savor the good moments and identify why you feel thankful------
When you're feeling happy and in a great mood, stop for a minute and pay attention to why exactly you are currently feeling this way. What is contributing to this feeling? Notice how you feel so you can appreciate it all and remember this special memory on another occasion.
Find the silver lining in every bad situation or challenge------
It may be easier said than done, but try to find a benefit, possible positive outcome, or something to be thankful for in every difficult challenge. Not getting that promotion? Be grateful that you still have a job and can possibly start that side hustle you always dreamt about.
Look outward, not inward------
Robert Emmons says people are more likely to feel grateful when focusing on others rather than getting caught up on their own feelings or how things should have gone. Empathy for others can cultivate a greater sense of gratitude.
Change your perspective------
When struggling, we often face a brick wall and cannot see beyond it, becoming fixated on the challenge. Instead, try to find something to feel grateful for and imagine how it could have been; put yourself in the shoes of someone experiencing greater misfortunes than your own.
Remember the good, the bad, and the ugly------
By remembering challenging times in the past that you overcame and the progress you have made, you intentionally create a direct contrast in your mind, setting the stage for gratefulness. Remember that gratitude journal? Now is a time to reflect back on all your blessings!
Watch your tongue------
Be conscious of your daily language and how you express yourself. You can program your mind into believing repeated statements and concepts using a grateful linguistic style and words such as thankful, grateful, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance.
Use visual reminders------
Two main obstacles to gratefulness are a lack of mindful awareness and forgetfulness. It is human nature to remember/ see the bad more than the good. Visual reminders can trigger thoughts of gratitude and remind us of all the good.
Volunteer more often------
Volunteering at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or non-profit will make you more grateful for all your blessings and the things you may take for granted. Studies have shown that volunteering to help others increases our well-being and our ability to have more gratitude.
8 weeks to a more grateful life
It takes, on average, eight weeks for a new behavior to become second nature. Intentionally practicing gratitude for eight weeks can dramatically change your brain patterns, leading to greater empathy and happiness.
Living your life with intentional gratitude will help you notice the little wins and joys—like a warm cup of tea, the sun shining on your face, or 5 pounds of weight loss on the journey to your goal weight.
These small moments are the building blocks to create a foundation of well-being that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good and be more thankful!