To practice gratitude is front and center these days, especially with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Gratitude has tangible health and wellness benefits, WebMD reported — grateful people worry less, sleep better, enjoy better immune system health and just feel better overall than their ungrateful counterparts. Yet the forced acknowledgement of gratitude can make giving thanks seem like a chore you have to do once a year, instead of a daily practice to connect with the world around you.
One solution to this dilemma: Take gratitude away from the Thanksgiving tradition and bring it into your everyday life. These seven tips will help you give thanks every day and reap the benefits of doing so:
Make a Daily List
Create a daily list of five things for which you are grateful. These might be major items like receiving a clean bill of health from the doctor or a small success such as getting to work on time. If you’re not a particularly grateful person, this simple activity has major benefits, including increased optimism and happiness.
Say Thank You
As you become more comfortable with expressing gratitude in writing, start saying it out loud to friends and family members. Thank people for their time, for the meal they just prepared, for being in your life. If someone did something generous for you, give a small gift along with your heartfelt thanks. Surprise someone who went out of the way for you with flowers. This simple act of saying thanks or giving a gratitude gift reinforces your connections, and it will make you feel good, too.
Stop and Savor the Moment
Life is so busy that we often don’t stop and savor the moment. Reverse this by noticing small moments of beauty and dwelling in them. You might stop on a park bench during your morning run and watch the birds, or sit on your porch and watch the sunset. The University of California at Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, which studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, calls this the new way to give gratitude.
Ask Yourself Three Questions
The center recommends you prompt gratitude by asking yourself three questions drawn from Naikan meditation:
- What have I received?
- What have I given?
- What difficulty have I caused?
By answering these questions honestly, you can explore positive experiences, gratitude and challenges or missed opportunities to be grateful.
It Could Be Worse
It’s all too easy to feel sorry for ourselves when things go wrong. If you got a flat tire this morning, ripped your favorite jeans, had a disagreement at work and then got a speeding ticket on your way home, it can seem like you are the unluckiest person in the world. On days like these, take a deep breath and think about all the good things that happened to you today. Even though it might seem bad now, ask yourself, “Will this matter to me in a year? A week? Five minutes?” The answer is probably, “No.”
Give a Little Bit
We gain a greater understanding of gratitude through giving. Volunteer at a holiday charity, give to the turkey drive or invite someone less fortunate to your holiday dinner. Through philanthropic gestures, we teach our children to be thoughtful of others and to be grateful for what we do have.
Remember the Bad
Turning into a Pollyana overnight isn’t really useful for anybody, and it’s unrealistic to expect everything will be good from here on out because you’ve decided to express more gratitude. It’s OK to remember the difficulties you’ve faced and your present challenges, and doing so makes your gratitude more authentic today. If that turkey is still frozen and requires three extra hours to cook, air your frustration—then be grateful that Uncle Lou said he’d wash all the Thanksgiving dishes.
Brian is an avid hiker and yogi with three dogs. He enjoys writing from his home in the South.