Gratitude comes in many forms and can be expressed in a multitude of ways. From simply telling someone, “Thank you!” to keeping a daily gratitude journal, there are countless possibilities of how one can exercise feelings of gratitude and thanks. Likewise, there are numerous benefits associated with doing so as well. For example, research has shown exercising gratitude cannot only strengthen existing relationships but can also create new opportunities for interpersonal connections to form. Exercising gratitude, also, has been linked to several physical and psychological benefits including decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, increased self-esteem, and improved sleeping habits (Hill, Allemand, & Roberts, 2013).
Exercising gratitude can be as simple, or as elaborate, as you choose. Ultimately, because everyone has the ability to cultivate gratitude, there are as many ways to exercise gratitude as there are people who choose to do so. According to Hill, Allemand, & Roberts (2013), gratitude benefits people because it serves as a way for individuals to appreciate what is instead of getting caught up in what isn’t. When we focus on what we don’t have, we tend to feel unsatisfied. Gratitude helps us to refocus, with a new perspective, on our lives and feel fulfilled, happy, and content with what we have. The best methodology to use, in order to achieve this, is whatever you feel works best for you! That’s the best part about gratitude–in terms of practicing it, you really can make it an experience unique to you!
Below are a few common gratitude exercises you can use to get you started if you’re having difficulty figuring out where to begin. Once you have found what method of expressing gratitude works for you and you begin to experience the benefits associated with it, I encourage you to share it with your children and help them figure out what method works best for them! Again, anyone can practice exercising gratitude!
1) Make a mental note. This one is easy and a GREAT way to get started. Simply take a moment, when you experience something that makes you feel thankful, and mentally say, “I am thankful for _______”. This practice helps to draw your attention to all the things you are thankful for.
2) Express yourself. Tell people you are thankful for them. Write a thank you note, send an e-mail, have a conversation–whatever method you choose, begin expressing your feelings of gratitude to those around you.
3) Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, begin or end the day by listing out 3-5 things that you’re thankful for and why you are thankful for them. You can opt for a classic journal or you can get creative–make a thankfulness jar, start a gratitude blog, etc. If you would like to read more about gratitude journals or would like some help getting started, I encourage you to visit the following links:
4) Practice Mindfulness. Visualize 5-10 things that you are grateful for each day and sit with that feeling of gratitude. Doing this regularly will help to rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful after eight weeks of consistent practice.
5) Volunteer. Be active about giving back. Oftentimes, helping others allows us the time to reflect on ourselves and reminds us of all that we have to be grateful for.
As mentioned before, it is important for you to find what method of expressing gratitude is best suited to you and your lifestyle. If you would like to learn more about the benefits associated with gratitude and how you and your family can practice it, please give us a call. We offer free twenty-minute phone consultations and would love to speak with you!
Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personality and individual differences, 54(1), 92-96.