Why You Should Start A Gratitude Practice Now!
It’s November. Can you believe it? I’m not quite sure how this crazy year has almost passed, but it has. And as November rolls around, I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving. Now, Thanksgiving will look quite different for a lot of us (find out some fun ways to celebrate in Create New Meaningful Traditions During COVID), but the core principle of the holiday will not change. It’s all about Gratitude! And because Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, I thought that November will be an appropriate time to start a Gratitude Practice. So that when we’re sitting around our Thanksgiving table, I don’t have to scramble to come up with something to be grateful for.
What Are the Benefits of a Gratitude Practice
Before I talk to you about how to establish a gratitude practice, I want to first talk about why it’s beneficial for all of us (even kids) to have a Gratitude Practice.
- Improved Psychological Health
The first and most obvious benefit of a Gratitude Practice is that it can help improve your psychological health. According to Robert Emmons, the world’s leading psychology expert on gratitude, people with an established Gratitude Practice report more joy, pleasure, optimism, happiness, and a whole host of positive emotions. And isn’t that what we all need right now?
- Improved Physical Health
While it may seem hard to believe, but having a Gratitude Practice can help you physically as well. Grateful people are more likely to exercise and eat better. And in turn they experience less aches and pains, lower blood pressure, and better sleep quality.
- Increased EQ (Empathy Quotient) and Less Aggression Towards Others
It’s not surprising that grateful people fare better socially. When you are grateful for those around you, you are much more likely to be empathetic towards people in general, and less likely to be aggressive and combative. You also feel more connected to others, which is so important right now, due to the physical isolation a lot of us experience. When we feel isolated and alone, we are not our best selves. We act like caged animals and lash out at everyone and everything. And a Gratitude Practice is a way to combat this.
- Improved Self-Esteem
You may wonder how gratitude can improve your self-esteem? And the answer is simple: grateful people spend less time comparing themselves to others. It’s those social comparisons that lead to a lot of emotional strife and angst.
The old saying “The grass is always greener on the other side” can’t ring anymore true. When you are not practicing gratitude, you are always looking at someone else’s grass, and imagining that it’s so much better than yours. But when you pay attention to your own grass and are thankful for its growth, then you stop comparing and feel much better about your progress.
- Supports a Mindfulness Practice
I have wholeheartedly embraced mindfulness into my life this year. And what I can say is that by doing so, I dramatically improved my overall quality of life. And to continue growing my Mindfulness Practice, I am making Gratitude a part of it. When you engage in a Gratitude Practice, you take a moment to stop, think, and really immerse yourself. You have to think about everything that you can be thankful for and that will allow you to slow down and be mindful, if only for a few minutes a day. But those moments will carry you through the rest of the time.
- Helps You Feel More Connected to the World
This goes along the line of other social benefits, but having a Gratitude Practice makes you more connected to the world as a whole. When you stop and think about all the things you have to be grateful for, and all the people and other beings that made it possible, you realize how interconnected our world truly is. And when you see that you are part of this wonderful system, you feel better. You feel like you truly matter.
- It Builds Mental Strength
There are numerous studies that show that having gratitude during catastrophic events, wars, and terrorists attacks, can actually decrease instances of PTSD and help overcome trauma. And since we’re living through a pretty traumatizing pandemic, it’s important to have a Gratitude Practice to fortify our mental strength, and stop having a victim mentality. It can also help those of us who suffered great losses to overcome the trauma, and come out more resilient in the end.
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Recommended Reading on Gratitude
How To Start A Gratitude Practice
Now that you know how you’re going to benefit from a Gratitude Practice, let’s talk about everything that you will need to start one.
Here’s the good news, you will need very little to start, but you can also get as creative as you would like. Your Gratitude Practice is yours and there is no wrong way to do it.
Let’s start with the most common Gratitude Practice method – journaling. Journaling your gratitude is simple. You can pick how often you write in your journal – it can be every day, once a week, or every time you start to feel negative feelings. And then you can write down 3 things you’re thankful for right now. It may feel forced at first, because so few of us actually stop and think all that we can be thankful for, but with time, it’ll get easier.
You can write a list of all the people you are grateful to have in your life. You can recount who influenced you the most, as you were growing up. What kind of experiences are you thankful that you had? What sparked the most growth in your life?
It can really be anything. And if you’re truly stuck, there are guided gratitude journals that can help get your juices flowing.
This is another popular Gratitude Practice method and it can be a great family activity. As a family, you have to add one thing you are grateful for today. And you can rotate family members. Do this for a month and at the end of the month, take some time to open the jar and read everything that you have been thankful for as a family. Do this every month, Take a picture of everything you are grateful for. And check back on it, when you’re having a rough day.
This is another Gratitude Practice method that is fun to do with kids, and is often popular in the month of November. It’s very simple – you draw a tree, then you cut leaves out of construction paper, write down what you’re grateful for on a leaf and glue it to the tree. You can also purchase a pre-made gratitude tree, if you’re not feeling particularly crafty.
This one is great for when you’re feeling down. All you need is a rock. You find a rock, write down what you’re grateful for on it, and carry this rock around with you. Maybe you have it in your purse, on your work desk, or in your kitchen. Refer to it any time you need an emotional pick-me-up.
This Gratitude Practice method is a little different from others, as it’s meant to be shared with other people. Your Gratitude Box is a place where you can store handwritten cards, notes, letters where you express your gratitude for others. You can write those letters, keep them in the box, and then give them to the recipient. You can also use the box to keep gratitude message from others to you. It is a great way to remind ourselves that we love and are loved.
Final Thoughts About A Gratitude Practice
Now that you know why you should start a Gratitude Practice and how to do it, it’s time to actually start. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how you do your practice, just that you do it. In time of strife and struggle, we all need something to be grateful for. And no matter how bleak our life is, there is always something that you can feel grateful for.