Gratitude – we’re all capable of it, but sometimes we need a little reminder, or a little convincing to practice it. There are many reasons to practice gratitude, but we are only recently discovering one of the big ones – its capacity to change and strengthen the brain in remarkably positive ways.
We hear all the time how a consistent gratitude practice can vastly improve our lives. And there’s a reason for it.
Gratitude breeds more gratitude and the feeling of gratitude moves you into the feeling of joy, positivity and connectedness.
But before you roll your eyes and click close, trust me and stay with me on this.
Practicing gratitude is one of the easiest activities you can do on your own and experience incredible results. And if all you can offer is 10 minutes a day to practice gratitude, you’ve got this.
I’m sharing four gratitude practices that are sure to help you begin to make the shift from feeling cynical to feeling optimistic. But first, let’s take a look at the science behind the powerful practice you’re not doing.
The Science of Practicing Gratitude
When the brain feels gratitude, the parts of the brain that are activated include the ventral and dorsal medial pre-frontal cortex. These areas are involved in feelings of reward (the reward when stress is removed), morality, interpersonal bonding and positive social interactions, and the ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling.
Gratitude also has the capacity to increase important neurochemicals. When thinking shifts from negative to positive, there is a surging of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These all contribute to the feelings of closeness, connection and happiness that come with gratitude.
A consistent gratitude practice will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful, and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.
The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
There are many benefits from practicing gratitude, some of which include:
- increased happiness and positive mood
- more satisfaction with life
- less materialistic
- less likely to experience burnout
- better physical health
- better sleep
- less fatigue
- lower levels of cellular inflammation
- greater resiliency
- encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom
Four Gratitude Practices You Can Start Today
There’s a gratitude practice for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding a practice that works for you.
Whether you choose a short daily practice, or a longer weekly practice, the feeling of appreciation moves you into the feeling of joy, positivity and connectedness. From that place, anything is possible. Let’s go there.
Daily Writing Practice
Take some time each day and think of one thing you are grateful for. Allow yourself time to picture it in your mind and notice the feeling of gratitude in your body.
Now, that you can picture your gratitude and feel it in your body, take it a step further and think of 5 reasons why you are grateful for this particular subject. Be as specific as possible. The shifting of the mind to more positive thinking is in the details or your practice. Reflect on your practice throughout the day.
Weekly Writing Practice
If a daily practice feels too overwhelming, start with a weekly practice. Allow yourself more time – 20 or more minutes – to focus, reflect, and write about what you are grateful for and why. Reflect on your practice throughout the week.
The key to any practice is consistency. So if you’re going to start with a weekly practice, be diligent about making it a priority. Pick a day and time for your practice and stick to it.
Handwrite a letter or card to someone who has made a positive difference in your life, and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks.
Take your time when you handwrite your letter. Reflect on special moments and qualities that made a difference for you. Allow yourself to sink into your feelings.
Deliver in person or mail the old-fashioned way. Who isn’t thrilled to receive a hand-written letter in the mail? And one with the expression of gratitude towards them will no doubt become a keepsake.
For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local community.
Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude.
Helping others helps you.
Consistency is Key
Gratitude builds on itself. We know the brain changes with experience, so the more that gratitude is practiced, the more the brain learns to tune in to the positive things in the world.
Consistency, and patience, in your practice is the ultimate key to your success.
“Gratitude is the wine of the soul. Go on. Get drunk!” — Rumi
More Gratitude Practice Ideas
Not seeing anything that strikes your fancy? There’s no need to limit yourself. If journaling isn’t appealing, try out new and creative ways to identify and sink into your grateful moments.
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Sandra is a business and life coach who specializes in helping clients who are craving a change but feel stuck where they are. Sandra helps them discover a new vision of the future and follow through on their ideas with enthusiasm and confidence. With a diverse background that spans more than three decades, Sandra combines her educator’s perspective, business acumen, life coaching skills, and everything she’s learned along the way to help her clients make bold moves that advance them forward in their careers and in their lives. When she’s not working, Sandra loves practicing yoga, traveling, cultural experiences, and enjoying the desert southwest.