To practice gratitude is more than feeling thankful for the good things in your life: it is a mindset that transcends your situation. True, this is easier said than done, but cultivating positive mindful habits will develop your resilience while weathering some of life’s toughest seasons. It is also a vital component of your mental health and therefore your holistic health strategy, which can be tracked in the Lively Habits App.
What Gratitude Does To Your Brain
Before diving into our favorite ways to practice gratitude and get us into a gracious groove, we want to unpack a study by UC Berkley. This study divided nearly 300 adults who were seeking counseling into three groups: one that wrote gratitude letters, another that journaled about their negative experiences, and a third control group that did neither. After a couple of months of observation, the group that wrote the letters consistently reported improved mental health.
The study formulated a few hypotheses around how practicing gratitude improved the mood, so to speak.
- It allowed participants to release toxic emotions and focus on positives in their lives.
- Participants didn’t necessarily have to send the letters to feel better (only 23% sent the letters). The act of listing why they were thankful was enough to reap the benefit.
- The longer that participants wrote gratitude letters, the better they felt – the process takes time.
- Practicing gratitude regularly may open neuropathways of the brain to feel grateful for longer amounts of time.
How We Like to Practice Gratitude
Now onto the nuts and bolts of how to practice gratitude: our top daily habits, which is our twist on a list from Forbes:
1. Appreciate everything, big or small
From sipping your coffee in the morning to scoring a promotion at work, no moment of happiness is too small to celebrate. By training your brain to focus on the good, you spend more time in that mindset and actively seek ways to bring you back to that place of positivity.
2. Be grateful for the challenges in life
This doesn’t mean that you have to be excited or even feel happy every time you face resistance. It simply means you are extracting the positives from your tough situation (as few as they may be), allowing it to make you stronger, teach you, or draw you closer to those you love. Your hard experience may also benefit someone else. Whether you are able to band together or shepherd this person through their situation by your first-hand understanding, both are big positives you can take from challenges.
3. Practice mindfulness daily
Our lives are often lived at ultra-high speed. Packed schedules, long work hours, and plenty of at-home responsibilities keep us busy from sun up to sundown. These schedules have dialed back a notch due to COVID-19, but somehow we are able to fill the hours of every day while we are primarily at home. In the midst of the busyness, seek quiet and give yourself time to reflect. This can be done at any time of day, for any length of time – even 5 minutes. Allow your mind to cut through the clutter of ever-present items on your to-do list and rest. Meditate, practice yoga, sit in your favorite comfy chair in the house, or get some fresh air.
4. Keep a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is any notebook or logs where you list the things you are thankful for and why. This trendy practice isn’t all hype – it is a worthwhile exercise that will help you record positive items in your life. It isn’t necessary to write every day but it is helpful to commit to a regular schedule. Be as detailed as possible and don’t forget to write about the things you are grateful to have avoided as well. We found this great list by UC Berkley to help you get started!
5. Do something good
Creating your own positivity is a fantastic way to feel grateful. Use one of your most valuable assets – your time – to make a difference in someone’s life. This could be as simple as visiting a relative, doing chores around the house without prompting, sending a letter, or volunteering in your local community.
6. Share your feelings with someone
Sometimes our personal tactics of journaling, mindfulness, or volunteering are not enough to get through life’s toughest seasons. During these times, it can be helpful to share your feelings with a trusted confidante or pursue professional counseling. Identify the support you need and give yourself permission to obtain it.
7. Surround yourself with your favorite people
This is always a good idea! Your go-to crew is always a mood lifter, and it’s likely the members of this elite group frequent your gratitude journal.
8. Do something to make you happy
Yep, treat yourself. There are several ways to get the good vibes flowing, and they don’t always have to cost money. Make your favorite dinner, take a long bath, go to your favorite walking trail, or naturally get your endorphins pumping with the right amount of exercise.
The Benefits of Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude daily; hopefully, we have given you a few tactics to tackle this worthwhile practice. Once you have picked a few habits that fit into your routine, sit back and enjoy the benefits. Here are some positives you may have to look forward to, according to Positive Psychology:
- Gratitude can help you make friends.
- Improves your physical and psychological health
- Increases your empathy and reduces aggression
- Gratitude improves your sleep
- Enhances your self-esteem
We hope that you experience all of these results while you practice gratitude! This habit is an important part of your mental wellness!
Chronic diseases – such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and heart disease – are leading causes of death and disability. The Liu Foundation offers philanthropic GoLively app and video series promoting evidence-based lifestyle habits to prevent chronic diseases. GoLively integrated Harvard, Stanford, and CDC’s Public Health findings into an easy-to-use behavior conditioning app and series of lifestyle motivation videos to prevent chronic diseases.
GoLively app and videos cover physical, mental, social, financial, and medical health aspects with 10 healthy lifestyle habits. GoLively enables corporate social responsibility to lower the annual $4 trillion spent on preventable chronic diseases in the United States. Healthy habits can lead to improved employee health, saving healthcare cost, increasing productivity, and morale. Download the Lively Habits app to help you keep track of your 10 healthy lifestyle habits. Go Lively!