Thanksgiving feasts and time with family and friends inspire the deep gratitude that the holiday represents, but our gratitude doesn’t have to end there. Science continues to show us that being grateful can make us happier, and that “developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”
Let the spirit of the season serve as the catalyst to starting your own gratitude practice. There are many ways to practice gratitude with mindfulness, but here’s an easy set of tips to get started with.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Visit your favorite bookstore or craft store and pick out a journal that inspires you. Keep it by your bedside or toothbrush for easy access. Make yourself write longhand instead of typing on a device, as the physical act of writing has more benefits for your neural health than typing on a keyboard. If you must type, that’s okay. It’s better to type than skip the practice!
- Notice times when you feel joy during the day. Take in that good mental state for a couple of breaths, allowing it to turn into a neural trait. In other words, mindfully focusing on joy helps condition your brain to feel more joy in the future. What fires together wires together!
- Before you go to bed at night, answer these two questions in your journal. What are you grateful for today? What did you enjoy today? Again, your answers can be anything at all.
There’s no “right way” to do these exercises. You can jot down one-word answers, write whole paragraphs, or even draw a picture. Give yourself the freedom to express your gratitude however it comes naturally to you. You may want to have a variety of different writing utensils on hand – such as colored pencils, regular pencils, ball point pens, sharpies – so that you can write or draw whatever you wish. Don’t get stuck on the idea of having so many options, though! Sometimes keeping it simple feels best. Do what feels right for you.
As I mentioned, what you write about feeling grateful for doesn’t have to be monumental. It could be as simple as feeling gratitude for resting your head on a comfy pillow, the sound of rain against your window, or the perfect cup of tea. And of course, it can be bigger things too, like a vacation, a raise, a unique adventure, or time with someone you love. If it happens to you and you feel joy from experiencing it, jot it down and revel in those feelings all over again.
Writing down what you are grateful for or what you were doing when you felt joy will open your heart to more happiness. And if you can recreate the feeling of joy in your body when you remember the activity that you are writing about, you are rewiring your brain for more happiness and resilience a second time from the same joyful activity!
It’s simple, really: practice mindful awareness of what brings you joy throughout the day, then relive it later as you record it and you let it fill you up with gladness to condition yourself for even more joyful experiences.
Start your gratitude practice now, then check in with yourself in about three weeks:
- What positive differences are you noticing?
- How do you feel?
With something this simple and effective at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to start improving your experience of life right here, today.