Living a life of gratitude is a game-changer – from wellness to relationships and manifesting desires. The interconnectedness of its benefits is ample proof that gratitude is the common thread that runs through most elements of our lives.
The simple, selfless act of gratitude that offers you so much is however not-so-easy to infuse in our lives. Hard to accept and absorb maybe but easy enough to understand if you dig a bit deeper.
Have you ever looked at the blessings in your life with gratitude? Whether small or big, blessings are forgotten and ignored in life’s mad rush. Often, they are taken for granted.
Instead, imagine how it would change your life and outlook if you learn to factor in the feeling of gratitude for each one of those blessings? The simple gesture of saying “thank you” for everyday acts can light up the lives of others.
The best part is that it is beneficial to you as well. The cumulative effect of such generous acts can be a life-changing experience for the benefactor as well as the beneficiary.
Practicing gratitude is entirely about ensuring the feeling of thankfulness is neither ignored nor forgotten in the rush of life. The small acts of gratitude when strung together can create a world of wellbeing.
This, in turn, strengthens your belief in the existence of goodness in everyone and everything. Over time, this will fill your heart with positivity and provide you the most elusive and most sought-after happiness, peace of mind, and fulfillment.
This article is a comprehensive guide to gratitude and the benefits of instilling it in life. You would find here ways to practice gratitude daily to derive its maximum benefit.
Table of Contents
Meaning of gratitude
When someone does you a good turn, like hold the elevator door open or pick up something you dropped, your automatic response would be “thank you”. Is that what gratitude is?
The answer is yes and no. Saying “thank you” is only one part of it. The response evokes a sense of gratitude only if it is accompanied by the feeling.
Practicing gratitude is about triggering that feeling in you.
Gratitude comes in many forms – acknowledgment, appreciation, and respect. Expressing gratitude need not always be verbal. A smile, a hug, or a handshake works equally well.
This voluntary and selfless act benefits the giver and the recipient. Gratitude is one of those rare things in life that has something in store for the benefactor. The more you give, the more you get back in the form of positive energy and a positive attitude.
Importance of gratitude
Feeling grateful for the blessings in life can change the way you perceive the people around you as well as your experiences in life. Gratitude is the magic wand that can build and repair relationships.
The mere acts of showing appreciation or saying thanks can work wonders in people management. Naturally, the recipient of the gesture feels happy and content with the appreciation and acknowledgment of their contribution. The perks of gratitude and appreciation don’t end there.
The reaction of the other person to your display of gratitude is the reward you receive for your good deed. This means you get back in equal measure, even when you are giving it away.
Practicing gratitude can fill you up with joy and positive feelings.
Most of us are pursuing happiness, contentment, and peace of mind throughout our lives. We think that we would have it when we manage to acquire materialistic things like home, money, car, or family. We work hard towards realizing them in the hope that at a future date we would be able to live a life filled with positivity.
The truth of the matter is, all these positive feelings are right here within our grasp now. All we need to access it is to embrace the feeling of thankfulness.
The feeling of gratitude helps us appreciate the things we already have in our lives, even as we pursue greater glory and bigger things. In fact, acknowledging the blessings in life is essential for manifesting our desires.
After all, we all know that it’s the little things that count.
Benefits of practicing gratitude
When you practice gratitude daily, the benefits are manifold. It touches every part of our lives, filling it with positive energy, and improving our lives in perceivable and imperceivable ways.
People who have made gratitude an integral part of their lives tend to have a positive approach towards life. They feel more alive, are kinder and more compassionate, are physically and mentally stronger, have a better immune system, and sleep better.
The list doesn’t end there. Here are some more reasons for a daily gratitude practice.
- Lowers stress and anxiety levels
- Curbs aggressive behavior
- Heals mental trauma and helps to relax
- Makes you more trusting and humbler and elicits nicer behavior
- Helps in revealing your friendly, kind, and compassionate nature
- Strengthens your existing relationships and helps build new ones
- Helps in broadening the horizons and boosts creativity
- Improves productivity and decision making
- Motivates you to greater heights in pursuit of dreams
- Earns you more respect from others, making you a better leader
- Makes you less prone to sickness
- Lowers blood pressure and raises the threshold of pain
- Improves the quality and duration of your sleep
- Helps you live longer
Examples of gratitude practice
You can practice gratitude in daily life in so many ways. Here are some examples to start with.
- Feel thankful to be alive.
- Be grateful for the love and affection shown by your family
- Appreciate the people who work for you and make your life easier
- Be thankful for the friendships and the wonderful time spent together
- Be appreciative of good health and a fit body
- Be grateful for the financial prosperity and independence
- Feel thankful for the food on the table and the people who made it happen
- Appreciate the contribution of others in the team
- Acknowledge the efforts of teachers and mentors for their guidance and support
- Feel thankful for the choices available and the freedom to make decisions
- Acknowledge all those who taught you life’s precious lessons directly or otherwise
- Feel grateful for the smile that lights up your life as well as that of others
Ways to cultivate gratitude in life
Gratitude is appreciating and feeling content about things you already have in life instead of pursuing something new in the hope that it will bring happiness and fulfillment. Practicing gratitude helps people to shift their focus to what they have from what they lack.
Merely saying “thank you” or a corresponding gesture doesn’t translate as gratitude. It is the feeling that accompanies these acts that makes it real and will help you reap rich rewards. A change in mindset is essential to make this happen. And, you cannot expect this to happen overnight.
When you try to include the feeling of gratitude in your everyday life, you may find it strange and contrived at first. This is natural as you are not yet used to the feeling. As you practice gratitude more and more, you will get used to it and slowly it becomes part of your lifestyle.
Some of the simplest ways to practice gratitude in life are counting your blessings, praying, and doing mindfulness meditation. You may thank someone who has helped you either personally or by writing a thank-you note.
You can follow these simple steps to cultivate gratitude in your attitude.
Notice your responses. When someone does you a good turn or something good happens to you, how are you reacting to it? Are you saying “thank you” aloud or silently? While expressing thanks, is it out of habit? Is it an absent-minded response or said as an afterthought? Are you feeling it as well?
Pause, feel, and say thanks. Every time you sense the need to say “thank you”, pause for a moment and observe. Are you aware of the event or the person that you want to thank? If not, bring it up to your conscious mind, understand and absorb it, and say “thank you”.
Repeat this until feeling gratitude becomes an integral part of your behavior.
How to practice gratitude every day?
Feeling thankful for the blessings in life is not hard to achieve once you understand and appreciate its importance and benefits. You may find it contrived, confusing, and complicated in the initial stages. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Trust the process, and continue to practice.
You may encounter resistance to the idea within yourself. A part of you may question the need for taking this up. Shake off those unwanted thoughts and feelings. Maintain unwavering focus on including gratitude in your life. In the end, you will be all the better for it.
Practicing gratitude is best done by scanning the past for persons and events that have given you happiness and pleasure. The more you focus on such gratitude-evoking matters, the more you will find yourself feeling gratitude.
In the beginning, this means turning your attention to such events in the past to practice gratitude. Once it becomes part of your attitude, you will be able to include it in your current behavior and live a life of gratitude.
Here are some practice gratitude ideas and ways to include them in your daily life.
1. Maintain a gratitude journal
This is a daily journal for all the good things that happened to you every day. Its goal is to serve as a reminder of the blessings as you tend to forget them easily. The journal prompts us to be grateful every day.
Our brain is wired to remember the negative things more than the positive ones. Recording them in a journal can help you retrieve them whenever you want.
The journal entries can be about any good happening, big or small. It can be a regular incident, your thoughts and feelings, your behavior, or about a person who came to your aid in your moment of need.
You may also adopt the scriptwriting style. That is to write in detail as in a script about it in a story-like way.
When you are feeling sad or depressed or when things are looking down, your mind would be too preoccupied to recall the blessings in your past. Scrolling through the journal can help jog your memory and it can serve as an instant mood booster.
2. Trace the path you have traveled
When you are in a happy state of mind, go back into your past and remember the hard times you have experienced. And, how far you have come and how much effort you put in to reach the current state. You need to do this without allowing negative emotions to overpower you. The current positive mindset needs to be strong enough to resist such a temptation.
When you compare your old life with a new one, you would be able to realize how blessed you are. This is bound to make you feel thankful.
3. Meditate on relationship
Unlike the regular meditation in which your goal is to empty the mind and keep it still, relationship meditation involves anchoring your mind on the subject of relationships and gratitude. For a session, choose your relationship with one of the most significant people in your life – partner, parent, friend, sibling, child, or colleague.
Find answers to questions like what have I received from them? Have I shown my appreciation for it? What have I given back? Have I ever made their life difficult?
Through the answers to these questions, you get to know more about the status of your relationship with the person. You can then figure out ways to improve them.
4. Trigger your senses
When your senses are activated, you will feel more alive and become more aware of your surroundings. Your ability to sense smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch and enjoy life through them makes you human. These unique attributes need to be highlighted to remind yourself of the miracle of life.
Instead of taking them for granted as you usually do, pause and look at them through the prism of gratitude. Experience them and absorb their importance in your life. Imagine how life would be without them.
Think about how incredible the human body is. How it is intricately built to provide us with an amazing experience. This would give you a lot to be grateful for.
5. Express your gratitude
Every time you receive help or support from people around you, let them know that you appreciate their gesture. Often, we take such help for granted, especially in the case of family, friends, and colleagues. Or reciprocate with a curt “thank you”.
The thanks given as an automated response and without feeling do not have the desired effect on the recipient. Since they are taking time out of their lives to help you, the least you can do is to appreciate their effort with sincere feelings.
Expressing gratitude can improve and repair relationships. The joyful reaction of the benefactor can also boost your happiness levels. It is a win-win situation.
6. Use visual cues
Often you tend to forget to be grateful for everyday blessings in the mad rush of living your life. The lack of mindful awareness is another roadblock to feeling grateful.
Even if you make a conscious decision to be more grateful, it may slip your mind until you make it part of your behavior. To help you feel grateful, you can use prompts and suggestions.
Visual cues will act as reminders to trigger the mind. The best signals to jog your mind to wakefulness are the people around you.
7. Make a pact with yourself
Wishing for something may not always make you work towards realizing it. Instead, try making a vow to yourself. Many studies have found the effectiveness of this strategy in helping with a behavior change.
Again, promising yourself to be grateful may get forgotten in the daily routine. To help you remind yourself of the pact, you may frame it as an affirmation and repeat them. Or write it on a post-it note and stick it where you see it often. The affirmation can be “I promise myself to count my blessings every morning”.
8. Mind your language
Do you know that you can say the same thing in many ways? The difference is in the focus – what is being given more importance in the spoken word. Instead of emphasizing more on the gifts, focus on the giver.
The spotlight should be on the one who offered help, well-wisher, supporter, or benefactor and on what they have done rather than on yourself and how it benefited you or how happy it made you, though you may include them.
When you are expressing your gratitude, the idea is to highlight the virtue of the good deed and the good qualities of the other person.
9. Infuse more emotions
Expressing gratitude would have added value when it is said with feeling. You can make it more effective by including more gestures that convey your feeling of gratitude. Such as a big smile, a hug, or both. This can amplify the feeling more in you and convey your thankful feeling to the other person in a better way.
The gratitude gestures can enhance the experience for the giver as well as the recipient. And, it is a known trigger of gratitude emotions in you more often.
10. Try gratitude meditation
This is a meditation technique that focuses only on things you are grateful for. Including your sensory experiences and mindfulness can take this exercise to an altogether different level.
Just as in the case of regular meditation, concentrate on your breathing to anchor your mind to the present and clear it of extraneous matters. Choose a blessing you have received and replay the scene. Bring in your senses of sight, hearing, or touch to make it more alive. Explore the emotions. Conclude the session with affirmations of gratefulness.
11. Count your blessings with affirmations
These are scheduled exercises you may use to practice gratitude daily depending on the availability of time. Frame affirmations that convey your thanks for all the good things that happened to you during the week. Repeat them daily. You may update or change the affirmations at the end of the week.
You may say the affirmations aloud or in mind. Or write them down. While at it, remember to focus on the incident and the emotions you experienced at that time.
Save your gratitude practice from the monotony
When you make gratitude part of your routine or habit, there is the threat of monotony setting in and robbing you of its benefits. The “thank you” becomes automatic, devoid of feeling.
You need to stay alert to this and take preventive action to nip the inclination in the bud itself before it takes root. Here are some tips that you may follow to avert this.
- Update your gratitude list
- Keep it creative
- Infuse emotions
- Sharpen your senses
- Practice mindfulness
You are here and reading this article is the important first step in practicing gratitude. It is an acknowledgment that you are aware of your shortcomings and want to get it right to improve the situation. This is an acceptance of the lapses in your current behavior and readiness to amend them.
Gratitude is not about merely saying “thank you” and “please” whenever possible. Only when they are said with feeling, it becomes gratitude. Practicing mindfulness can help you live a life of gratitude.
Days are hectic for most of us and at times this is unavoidable. When time permits, slow down the pace and appreciate and acknowledge the blessings and all the good things you have. Make it a point to thank the people who went out of their way to help and support you in your hour of need.
Recommended Reading: 5 Gratitude Activities for Adults