In the past few decades, the practice of gratitude has grown tremendously around the world—and for good reason. Research has found the regular practice of gratitude to have many benefits for our physical and mental well-being. With respect to the latter, regular gratitude practice has been linked with improved mood as well as decreased anxiety and depression for those experiencing symptoms (Cregg and Cheavens, 2020). Additionally, practicing gratitude can help us adopt a more optimistic outlook, strengthen our self-confidence, and improve our relationships with others—romantic or otherwise. Things get even more interesting from a physical standpoint. The optimism, decreased stress and mental well-being that are developed through practicing gratitude can help promote healthy aging (Kim et al., 2019), boost the immune system (Ryff et al., 2004) and lower one’s risk of heart failure (Redwine et al., 2017). Recent studies continue to discover new ways that gratitude benefits our health, such as by reducing inflammation through a decrease in the activity of the amygdala—a region in the brain that processes fear and threats (Hazlett et al., 2021). Taken together, these findings go to show that there’s a lot to be gained by recognizing what we already have.
Now that we’re all on the same page about why you should start practicing gratitude, let’s talk about some of the best ways to bring gratitude into your life. Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, some of these methods may appeal to you more than others, but with my top 5 methods, you’re sure to find an idea here that’s right for you.
1. Gratitude journaling: This is one of the most popular ways to practice gratitude, which involves keeping a diary of the things you’re grateful for every day. These entries can be as personal, detailed, or abstract as you’d like, from a specific moment in your day you’d like to remember, to a person who made you feel special.
2. Meditation and mindfulness: It’s easy to fit 5 minutes of gratitude into your day when you incorporate it into your existing routine. For example, you can involve gratitude in your daily meditation routine by meditating on things you’re grateful for. Depending on the time of day you choose, you can use this session in the morning to kickstart your day on a positive note, or use it at night to reflect on your day and wind down for bed. It’s entirely up to you!
3. Gratitude mapping: If you’re more of a visual learner, this method may be perfect for you. Simply use a bulletin board to visually display what you’re grateful for, such as a picture of your family or a quote from your favourite author. The sky's the limit! As an added bonus, seeing this gratitude map every time you walk by it will serve as a constant reminder of all you have to be grateful for.
4. Volunteering: If you’re looking for a more practical way to practice gratitude, volunteering for some causes that you’re passionate about can do wonders for your mental well-being. You’ll not only find the work extremely fulfilling, but by helping those in need, volunteer positions can help you reflect on your own life and all you have to be thankful for. If you’re aiming to become a better person through practicing gratitude, volunteering can also be a powerful way for you to develop compassion for others.
5. The Adventures of Lucy-Loo & Roo And The Magic Of The Gratitude Stick: So far, the techniques we’ve discussed have been geared primarily toward adults and older children, but the fact is that no age is too young to start practicing gratitude. For parents, teaching your kids about gratitude at a young age will set the foundation for positive mental health and well-being later as they encounter the challenges that life throws at them. We created this story book and the Gratitude Stick as the ultimate duo to teach children about gratitude. In practice, the Gratitude Stick is a tool designed to engage young ones in conversations about gratitude, such as at the dinner table or before bed. Don’t forget to help your children out by providing your own list of things you’re grateful for—the Gratitude Stick is a great exercise for us all!
At the end of the day, practicing gratitude comes down to committing yourself for 5–10 minutes each day until it becomes a habit. There are so many options to choose from that anybody can find a way that works for them, no matter their lifestyle. With gratitude having so many positive impacts on your life, your future self will thank you.