The benefits of practicing gratitude are virtually endless. In short, it’s a simple practice that makes you overall happier in life.
Seriously—it’s as simple as acknowledging and being grateful for the meal you just ate.
In general, people who begin practicing gratitude by taking the time to notice and acknowledge the things in their life that are worth giving thanks over, tend to feel more alive.
By more alive, we’re talking about more positive feelings and emotions, getting better sleep, and being kinder and more compassionate towards others. They even have stronger immune systems.
So, why not practice gratitude every day?
The short answer is, just like starting any new “habit,” it’s easy to try it out for a few days and then sink back into old habits. This is partly because most people aren’t sure where to start with their gratitude practice or how to even express it in the first place.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how to practice gratitude, as well as some of the psychology behind it.
Keep reading to learn more.
How Do I Start My Gratitude Practice?
So, where do you start with essentially practicing how to be grateful for the things in your life?
Well, as we mentioned, it’s as easy as just being thankful. However, it also takes a bit more effort than simply saying thank you sun for shining bright.
Here are some tips on how to start a real gratitude practice:
- Make a commitment. Practicing gratitude is actually a spiritual practice that evolves over time. The first thing you need to do when starting is to commit to it by designating the time each day that you’ll dedicate to the practice.
We suggest beginning your day by practicing gratitude. As soon as you wake up, whether you do it sitting upright in bed or designate a specific space for it, first thing in the morning is the best way to start your day.
- Identify your thanks. Start by focusing on at least five things that you’re grateful for in your life. It could be your home, your family, pet, job, significant other, abilities, talents—even your favorite stuffed animal.
There’s no right or wrong here. Just focus on the things that make you happiest in life.
- Write about it. For many people, the routine of practicing gratitude is best when put into writing. This is especially true if you’re easily distracted by your own thoughts.
Writing about the things you’re thankful for also makes the practice feel more like a concrete routine, like brushing your teeth. Sometimes it’s just all about the action.
- Practice mindfulness. Practicing gratitude is primarily about focusing on the present, which is exactly what mindfulness is. So, aside from just practicing gratitude during a set time of the day, try practicing it while you’re in the moment of something joyful.
For example, if you’re doing something that brings you joy, such as going for a walk on a nature trail, take a moment to focus on what you’re sensing and enjoying at that moment.
Practicing gratitude is that simple—it just takes a bit of effort to drag yourself out of your old habits to make the space for new ones.
Why Is it Hard to Show Appreciation?
If you’re new to the mindful practice of gratitude, you may feel a bit odd sitting at the edge of your bed mouthing the words or even writing them down.
Generally speaking, we as human beings tend to feel uncomfortable when expressing certain emotions. This is primarily because we either struggle to find the right words or because we just aren’t used to expressing certain emotions.
Not everyone is in tune with their emotions and is able to convey them easily. That’s why it’s called a practice and takes effort.
Remember, when it comes to expressing gratitude and even feeling gratitude, it’s important to practice mindfulness at the moment and give yourself permission—no matter how awkward it may feel at the moment.
How Do You Express Gratitude in Words?
If you’re practicing gratitude with a partner, as opposed to a morning meditation ritual or keeping a journal, the words may not come at first.
As we mentioned earlier, the psychology behind it is as simple as not being in tune with your emotions.
So where do you find the words to speak your gratitude out loud?
Try starting with the following phrases:
- I’m grateful for...
- I’m thankful for…
- I’m humbled by…
- I’m touched by…
- ____ makes me smile/feel happy/joyful
- ____ makes my day/night better
- That dinner was perfection tonight
You get the point. Just think about the things that make you feel good in life or bring you joy throughout the day and give them a positive adjective. That’s it—that’s how you get started with putting your gratitude into words!
How Do You Practice Gratitude Even When You Don’t Feel Like it?
Sometimes, we just don’t feel like doing anything. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to drown out our thoughts by binge-watching our favorite TV show or by scrolling aimlessly through our social media accounts.
All of this is okay—the last thing you want to do is burden yourself with guilt or shame for being human.
However, you need to designate a specific time to practice in the beginning so that it becomes a habit. The best thing about practicing gratitude is that it really only takes 5-10 minutes of your time. The only caveat is that you need to spare that time to focus on what you’re grateful for and only what you’re grateful for.
But what do you do when you don’t even feel like sparing 10 minutes of your time? Take 60 seconds for a deep breath and name one thing out loud that you’re grateful for.
Once again, it’s that simple—and you’ll likely end up taking the full 10 minutes after getting started.
Ultimately, practicing gratitude is all about mindfulness. Of course, starting out it’s best to keep things simple by naming out loud or meditating on a handful of things you’re grateful for. Before you know it, you’ll be extending that practice to the majority of your day simply by remaining present in the moment.