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5 Simple and Easy Ways to Cultivate Appreciation and Gratitude

Strategies to help you build a daily gratitude and appreciation practice that improves both your physical and mental health.

Practicing appreciation and gratitude is one of the techniques I use daily to help me feel more positive emotions and deal with adversity.

Appreciation and gratitude are two of the most powerful emotional states one can be in. Negative emotions such as anxiety, resentment, anger, criticism, depression, and guilt have a damaging effect on our health and our overall sense of well-being. So much, that new scientific discoveries are now classifying unforgiveness as a disease. Ouch!

On the other hand, practicing positive emotions such as gratitude improves emotional and physical well-being. The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects on a person’s life. Studies have discovered that grateful people are happier, less stressed, and less depressed and receive more social support. Here are some examples of how gratitude has been shown to improve a person’s life:

  • Gratitude is associated with higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
  • People who write in a gratitude journal for fifteen minutes before they go to bed sleep better and longer.
  • Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, lower blood pressure (even when under stress), and improved mental clarity, and they report feeling healthier than other people do.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health, such as increasing happiness and reducing depression. It also reduces toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.
  • Appreciation enhances empathy, decreases aggression, and improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude increases mental strength and resilience, reduces stress, and helps to overcome trauma.
  • Practicing gratitude led to a 7 percent reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.
  • Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress by 28 percent and depression by 16 percent.
  • Gratitude lower levels of cortisol (stress hormones) by 23 percent. A daily gratitude practice can decrease the effects of neurodegeneration that occurs with increasing age.
  • Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94 percent.
  • Grateful people have between 9 to 13 percent lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, a key marker of glucose control that plays a vital role in diabetes.

Unfortunately, many of us find that it takes a great deal of vigilance to cultivate an attitude of appreciation. In the Western world, we are culturally conditioned to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we have received. However, there is so much to be grateful for. For example, if you have a roof over your head, sleep in a bed, have food in your refrigerator and clothes and shoes, you are in a better place than 75% of the world’s population. If you eat three meals a day, you are better off than over 1 billion people on the planet who have one meal a day or none.

So, appreciate and be grateful for the big and small things in your life. Here are five easy ways that my mentor Jack Canfield taught me to cultivate a daily routine of appreciation and gratitude:

  1. Take 5 minutes each morning to write down what are you grateful for and appreciate in your life. Starting your day this way sets you up to be receptive and thankful for everything your day will bring.
  2. Appreciate at least 3 people every day; verbal appreciation works excellent, but written notes are also helpful because people can save them and re-read them when they need a pick me up.
  3. Get in the habit of looking for the good in all situations, as the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” For example, when my friend’s wife lost her job a few years ago, she could have chosen to scold herself or question her capacity. Instead, she focused on her gratitude for having the opportunity to look for a job that she truly loves and to follow her passion.
  4. Carry an appreciation stone or another physical token of appreciation in your pocket. Every time you touch it, stop, breathe, and take a moment to think of something you are grateful for.  
  5. Appreciate yourself. We all need acknowledgment, but the most essential recognition is what we give ourselves. Celebrate your big successes, and acknowledge your small daily achievements too, things like eating healthy, not blowing up in a meeting, being on time to meetings, etc.

If you need more ideas on how to practice gratitude, read the book “The Magic” by Rondha Byrne. This book takes you on an incredible 28-day journey of appreciation, in her book Rondha offers at least 28 different activities that can help you be grateful every day of the month.

It may not feel natural at first to focus on appreciating what you already have. But by steadily practicing these daily appreciation habits, you’ll begin to change your conditioning and attract more into your life with less effort.

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