Gratitude or our appreciation or thankfulness for someone, something or combination of things is powerful. Many of us probably already practice gratitude in some form, sharing our appreciation for someone, sending a thank you card, etc. Honing in and fostering that appreciation by creating a consistent gratitude practice could have major benefits in your life.
To start, what do I mean by gratitude practice? A gratitude practice is a deliberate and regular habit of consciously acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of one’s life, experiences, or relationships. It involves focusing on feelings of thankfulness and expressing gratitude for the things, people, or situations that bring joy, fulfillment, or a sense of wellbeing.
It can involve different ways of expression and activities , here are a few ideas:
- Gratitude journal: write down in a journal one thing you are grateful for every morning/night.
- Weekly gratitude creative expression: pick a day once a week to dedicate 10-20 minutes to think, draw or write about what you are grateful for the week.
- Gratitude buddy: choose one person who you text or call to share one thing you are grateful for every day.
- Slide gratitude into your busy day: whether you are waiting for the metro, in line to pick up your kid from school, at the bus stop or waiting for dinner to heat up, pause and let this be a moment to practice gratitude. When you find yourself in slower moments, enjoy and find something you are appreciative of.
- Gratitude before a meal: pick a meal to say a blessing or prayer of gratitude before. This is a nice way to mindfully pause before eating.
Why is gratitude so important? There is a plethora of scientific evidence that points to gratitude being strongly linked with greater happiness, enhanced psychological and overall wellbeing. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.” That is a hefty list! Researchers have conducted a number of really interesting experiments on positive psychology, and if you are interested you can read more about the research here.
To summarize, in our busy world, it can be easy to lose track of the good things in our lives especially when we are feeling overwhelmed or are in times of uncertainty. However, fostering a simple gratitude practice can help us increase happiness in our lives and anchor us to the here and now. Gratitude or finding appreciation for what is around us has been linked to help reduce stress, increase our resilience for coping and improve relationships in our lives. Integrating a gratitude practice does not have to require a major shift in life, and if you think about it, you probably already have some form of gratitude practice in your life. So, why not expand it today? Choose one of the practices above and get started!
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier#:~:text=In%20positive%20psychology%20research%2C%20gratitude,adversity%2C%20and%20build%20strong%20relationships.
Elena Palermo (she/her) is a Graduate Therapist working at the Hope Center for Wellness. She is a first-year graduate clinical social work student at Smith College School of Social Work. Her career therapeutic aspirations include interlacing mindfulness-based interventions into a psychodynamic framework.