Happy Fall everyone! The start of the holiday season is right around the corner with Thanksgiving less than a couple of weeks away (at least for us Canadians). So I’ve been focused on the practice of gratitude, and what that actually means in my everyday life.
(Side note: before we jump into today’s topic. If you are in need of dessert ideas for thanksgiving dinner, check out either my apple crumble recipe or my pumpkin pie cheesecake bars. You won’t regret it! Now back to the topic at hand.)
We all know the importance of saying thank you to acknowledge when someone does something for us. But in our society today that’s just become a cultural norm; an automatic response.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely still nice to hear someone say thank you for something I’ve done for them. But when I say the words to someone else am I genuinely expressing gratitude, or is it something I just say because I’ve been programmed to do so?
Are there still genuine feelings of gratitude behind my “thank you”?
What does gratitude mean?
Gratitude is defined as being thankful and wanting to show appreciation for something. It’s described as having the desire to return kindness that’s been given to you.
Somehow we’ve managed to simplify this idea into just saying thank you, or at least I know I have. But this definition makes me think that it should be more than just two words said to conclude a transaction. Maybe you agree with me.
The importance of practicing gratitude
One of the reasons I decided to start looking into the practice of gratitude was because I noticed that on the days where I feel thankful, I’m a lot less anxious. Maybe this is something you’ve noticed too.
We can automatically make the connection that gratitude is a positive feeling, so when we feel thankful, we usually feel good about it too. But there are also studies into the mental health benefits of gratitude.
Showing gratitude can improve your mood, leading to a decrease in feelings of stress and depression. Expressing gratitude to your family and friends strengthens your bonds with them, increasing positive feelings of love and support, and decreasing feelings of loneliness.
5 Practical Ways to Practice Gratitude Daily
I know that practicing gratitude in your everyday life isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially while living in a pandemic. But riddle me this, don’t you think it would be more bearable if you focused on the things you do have instead of the things you don’t?
At least taking time out of your day to practice gratitude takes away from the time you spend wishing you were somewhere else or had a different life.
Anyways, to help those of you who struggle with practicing gratitude regularly (like myself), I have come up with some practical ways to do just that. Here are my 5 ways to practice gratitude daily.
1. Make the practice of gratitude part of your morning routine
A great place to start practicing gratitude is as soon as you wake up in the morning. Start your day on a positive note.
In the past one of the ways I incorporated gratitude into my morning routine was by practicing yoga. I would follow along with this youtube channel called Yoga with Adrienne every morning.
Honestly, you could do this with any type of exercise, but I have a tough time getting out of bed when I know it’s to go for a run.
Exercise is a good way to show gratitude towards your body. By taking care of it, you’re showing that you’re grateful for all it does for you throughout the day.
Exercise also produces endorphins, which are great for your mental wellbeing. By expressing gratitude to your body you are also practicing self love and self care.
Spending 5-10 minutes in silent meditation focusing on what you’re grateful for is a positive way to start your day. It’s sometimes difficult to do this in the afternoon once the hustle and bustle of life has already started. You might find it harder to quiet your mind and focus your thoughts.
In the morning, before anything starts, before checking your email, and mentally compiling your to do list for the day, express gratitude by focusing on what you’re grateful for in your life.
2. The practice of gratitude includes the people you love
Now that we’ve started the day with internal gratitude, let’s talk about external gratitude. Pick a friend or family member and tell them that you’re grateful for them.
Express to them that you notice the ways they actively love you, and that you appreciate what they do for you. I feel like more often than not even though we do notice these things and feel gratitude within, we don’t always express that gratitude to the person.
Tell your friend or family member what qualities in them you admire and the ones that make them the friend you’re grateful for. Focusing on the positive aspects of their character and expressing those thoughts to them helps you show gratitude and practice positive thinking.
It’s also a good way of reminding yourself how good you have it, so you don’t take them for granted.
3. Practice gratitude in your job
We’ve all realized the importance of having a job that you can do from home or one that is essential during this pandemic. And we’ve seen how so many people have been negatively impacted by this pandemic through job loss.
But it’s still easy for us to slip into a dissatisfied attitude. We complain about the daily inconveniences that come with our job, instead of being grateful that we have a job in the first place.
It’s important to remember to be grateful that you can provide for yourself and your family. When your basic needs are being met, that’s a privilege.
So when you’re experiencing a bad day at work, take a deep breath and focus on all the ways your basic needs are being met because of your job. Channel those thoughts into gratitude and keep going.
I struggle with this too, so we can work on this one together.
4. Gratitude is an action
Let’s talk about gratitude in action. I’m sure a lot of us think of gratitude as something you express through words. It falls under the words of affirmation love language to most of us. But actually I believe it falls under all 5!
I’m just going to speak to one in particular though: showing your gratitude through acts of service.
When someone does something for us, it’s easy to say thank you and move on. But I think a better and more intentional way of expressing gratitude is by doing something in return.
Cook a meal for your family, or do that thing your mom’s been begging you to do for ages. Gratitude is expressing our love and appreciation for the people in our lives that are constantly taking care of us. Let’s take care of them too.
5. Keep a gratitude journal
We started the day with reflection, so we should finish the day with it too. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to practice gratitude before going to bed.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mind is absolutely swimming with thoughts of what happened during my day and what I have to do tomorrow. It’s made even worse by the fact that my “office” is right next to my bed.
A practical way to get your thoughts in order is by journaling. There’s something about the action of putting pen to paper. It makes you feel like you’re taking your thoughts out of your brain and putting them in this book to be dealt with the next day.
Gratitude journaling is similar in the sense that you’re still documenting your day, but you’re focused on the moments you’re grateful for. I like to think of it as I’m replacing my negative or anxious thoughts with grateful ones, or looking at my day through a gratitude lens.
I know this is difficult for some people. It’s even difficult for me as someone who struggles with anxiety. So I made this gratitude journal template. If you would like to use it, click the button below.
My challenge to you is to try gratitude journaling everyday for the first 12 days of October leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m going to do it too, we can call it the October Gratitude Challenge.
Practice Gratitude for Yourself
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and from there we will start a long season of showing our family and friends that we appreciate them. But ultimately the practice of gratitude is for you.
It changes your perspective about the day. Whether that’s in the morning when you first wake up, during the work day, or right before you go to bed.
Gratitude helps you to have a positive mindset, even when there are so many things telling you not to. Choose to be thankful for your own mental wellbeing even when it’s hard.
Because after all, we know it’s hard to show love to others, when we’re not practicing self love. So before we enter this season of thanksgiving and love let’s practice gratitude.
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If you didn’t before, click the button below to receive your FREE gratitude journal template and join the October Gratitude Challenge with me!