Gratitude grat·i·tude /ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/ by definition is: “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude is one of my favorite words in the world. It not only stands for something I truly believe in, but it’s also a great reminder. Life is complicated and messy, and sometimes we can lose our perspective of the little things there is to be truly thankful for. It is through practicing an attitude of gratitude that we are able to find joy and comfort each and every day.
I will never forget a conversation I had with someone I met years ago. He was a mutual friend and had just come back from traveling around to many parts of the world. He was sharing about his experiences going to places in the world where people are living with little resources and in poverty. This was an experience that really changed his life. He isn’t the first person who has had their eyes opened from visiting another part of the world or a third-world country. Many people report looking at their life completely differently after coming back from a travel experience like this. When I asked this man to explain what it was about his travels that opened his eyes and changed his life, he told me, “there are people I met with a house as a shack, next to no possessions, yet the smallest things would bring them so much joy. They were happier than most people I interact with here in North America.” His words truly shocked me. It also gave me insight into why we suffer so much.
We have attached so much significance and meaning to our possessions and “successes.” We are constantly striving to have more, do more, and be more, without stopping to take the time and really appreciate the things we already have. I think there’s actually an epidemic where too many of us have lost sight of true gratitude and living in the present moment. It’s hard to always keep an attitude like this while we are living in such a fast-paced part of the world. One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past couple of years is to practice having an attitude of gratitude as much as I can. In this article, I am going to share science-backed evidence on how to practice gratitude, and some personal tips that have helped me! If you’re looking to improve this aspect of your life, keep on reading.
Start with thinking one thought of gratitude per day:
Scientists who study positive psychology found that a one-time act of thoughtful gratitude in someone’s day produced an immediate 10% increase in happiness and 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. This statistic shows us that a single thought can actually make a dramatic difference in the way we feel. Gratitude isn’t an automatic default way of thinking for many of us, therefore being grateful needs to become a choice in order to really work. If gratitude doesn’t come easy to you, just try setting a reminder on your phone that prompts you to think of something to be grateful for once a day. This act will get you into a habit of reflection, mindfulness, and peace.
Write it down:
A study from 2018 found that keeping a gratitude journal decreases materialism and heightened generosity among adolescents. There is something to be said about the act of writing something down, especially when it comes to gratitude. Writing something down puts it into existence and makes it feel even more real. I can speak from personal experience when I say that writing down three things I am grateful for per day really helped me over the course of the pandemic and personal struggles I was dealing with. Amongst things feeling confusing and tough, I was able to find small tidbits of blessings throughout my day that would have been overlooked if not for making the time to write them down.
If you are ready to start taking on an attitude of gratitude, I highly recommend going to the store and grabbing yourself a simple journal. Open up a fresh page each day and start with the prompt, “today I am grateful for…” This act will not only become a habit but something you genuinely look forward to each and every day because it truly brings joy.
Express your gratitude out loud:
When was the last time you told someone that you’re grateful for them? I am sure there are many people in your life that you are grateful for, and while you may think they know it, actually saying it out loud can be a spectacular thing. Telling someone how you are grateful for them will not only leave you feeling full of happiness, it will leave that person with the same feeling. Expressing gratitude causes a ripple effect. Through speaking kind words, acknowledgment, and gratitude we create the space for others to do the same in their lives. Imagine we lived in a world where more people expressed their gratitude and acknowledgment. How cool would that be? I challenge you to tell one person per week why you are grateful for them.
Remind yourself to be grateful each day:
They say it takes about 21 days to form a new habit, while this doesn’t seem like that much time in the long run, it definitely is a commitment. In order to start forming gratitude habits, you must be able to remind yourself to do so on a daily basis. Here are a few suggestions of how you can remind yourself to practice daily gratitude.
- Set phone reminders
- Post a sticky note on your fridge or bathroom mirror
- Keep a gratitude journal beside your bed
- Start a “gratitude challenge” with a friend and keep each other accountable on a daily basis
Before you know it, you’ll be thinking grateful thoughts without even realizing it!
Throughout my life, I have always realized that the happiest people in real life are the ones who were truly grateful for the little things. It is not the people who have the most that are the happiest, it is the people who make the most of what they have. Gratitude will always turn what you have into enough. It will make you realize that life really is about taking moments to appreciate the good that surrounds us. I am going to conclude by leaving you with this quote, “
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault