Practicing gratitude may just seem like another self-care fad that will suffer the same fate as the long-forgotten charcoal toothpaste. BUT, it turns out there’s actually a tonne of science behind why the practice of gratitude could actually do us all a lot of good, and what better time to be enlightened on the topic than on World Gratitude Day itself?
Now, you may be thinking you’re already a grateful person, and it’s true, it’s a feeling that comes naturally to us as humans. But in actual fact, gratitude is so much more than just celebrating momentous occasions such as a promotion at work or signing the lease for a new apartment. It’s about appreciating the small things, sometimes something as simple as Ryan Gosling’s performance in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Below, we’ll explain how, and why, the practice of gratitude is something you can incorporate into your daily life.
The Benefits of Practicing Gratitude:
1. Improves mental health.
We’re busy people. Or at least we all have things we tend to prioritise over self-care. But taking time to notice and reflect upon the things you’re thankful for actually leads to an increase in positive emotions and improves overall life satisfaction. Focusing on the good things in life shifts the attention away from the negative emotions that can often creep into our minds. This explains why many psychologists recommend clients adopt this habit as a way of easing their anxiety or depression.
2. Boosts the immune system.
Talking about the brain gets very complicated, very quickly. In order to keep this simple, let’s just put it like this: stress triggers the production of a hormone called cortisol. We don’t like too much cortisol because it suppresses the immune system. Practicing gratitude helps us activate the happy part of the brain, which relaxes the body. A relaxed body means less stress and less stress means less cortisol. Less cortisol means improved immune function!
3. Strengthens relationships.
Practicing gratitude encourages us to recognise how other people positively impact our lives. Often, ‘thank you’ is just a habitual response. We don’t even think about why we are giving thanks. The ability to name what it is that we feel grateful for forces us to acknowledge the good deeds of others and foster appreciation for them. This appreciation for others can help bring people closer together, especially when it is expressed.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal:
Most of us could do with a more mindful night time routine to prepare our brains for sleep. Yes, we know you’ve heard it before; this means putting down the mobile and actually embracing a relaxing pre-sleep routine. This helps to tell our brains that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. So, here’s your perfect opportunity to fill two needs with one deed. Spend as little as 15 minutes before you sleep writing in a journal. While you’re at it, why not go for full zen vibes by lighting a candle and putting on some low-fi music. Make your night routine something to look forward to!
There are a number of approaches to gratitude journaling. Some people favour ‘free writing’, letting the words simply spill onto the page with no structure or set path. Others prefer to respond to prompts, which encourage them to think deeper about things they may not have previously considered.
Here are 20 prompts that you may find useful:
- 3 things you are grateful for.
- 3 good things that happened today.
- Something you are looking forward to tomorrow.
- An act of kindness you did for someone or someone did for you.
- One reason to be proud of yourself today.
- Someone who is always kind to you.
- A place that makes you happy.
- Favourite time of day and why?
- Something you like about yourself.
- 3 strengths of yours.
- A possession you are thankful to have.
- Something that made you laugh recently.
- Something you used to wish for and now you have.
- Favourite memory?
- Something new you have learnt to do recently.
- Someone who loves you.
- An item or food that always brings you comfort.
- The last time you truly felt happy.
- How can you make sure tomorrow will be a good day?
- Someone you are grateful to have in your life.
While practicing gratitude in private is still incredibly beneficial, sharing this gratitude with the person it is directed towards can give both of you a huge mood boost.
If you’re not a naturally expressive person, perhaps this list of ideas will help:
- Random acts of kindness. Whether this means giving someone a compliment, or holding the door open for a stranger. The list of options for this one is endless!
- Write a thank-you letter. This isn’t the kind your parents used to make you send after your birthday parties. This is a little more genuine. Be specific about what it is you are thankful for in the person for it to really be meaningful for both of you.
- Tip your server. In some instances, as mentioned above, a thank-you letter can be a heartwarming way of expressing gratitude... the service industry is not one of those instances. Giving a tip however, is a very clear sign of your gratitude and is bound to make the service-provider feel good too.
- Give gifts! This is probably the most fun form of expressing gratitude and it doesn’t matter whether the gift is big or small. It lets the recipient know you were thinking about them, and that they actually mean something to you. And seeing how happy it makes them should make you feel pretty great too. (Consider this as a gentle reminder that our website has some amazing gifting options that you may wish to browse through).