The holidays often prompt us to revisit and think about what we're thankful for. And while we can always use a reminder, this "attitude of gratitude" is usually short lived. Come January, many have forgotten to make gratitude a part of their daily lives. We've slipped back into our daily routines and that "gratitude" quickly dissipates.
For some people, gratitude is a long-term practice. And those people, according to research from the University of Indiana, have greater psychological benefits. From my personal experience, I know when I focus on feeling grateful, it is harder to feel sad or depressed. And when I do find myself feeling low, making a conscious choice to focus on the good pulls me out of those depths faster than anything else.
In short, this research shows that practicing gratitude exercises can reduce depression and increase feelings of well-being, and these feelings linger well after you have finished the exercises. And the more you practice it, the stronger that gratitude muscle gets, and the more aware of it you become. If you can become consistent with gratitude practices even for a month, you'll feel the benefits of it for weeks to come.
5 Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Place sticky notes with the word “Gratitude” written on them around your house and at your work desk. These can serve as reminders throughout the day to take a moment to think about something you are thankful for.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Before bed every night or when you wake in the morning, write down three things you are grateful for.
- Start your morning with gratitude. When you wake up, think about five things you’re grateful for. Try, “I’m so grateful for being able to wake up this morning and take these energizing deep breaths.” Think about something that works for you. It can set a positive tone for the day.
- Express your gratitude and positivity. Watch what you say and put out into the world. When you're feeling blah, you put that energy out there and it attracts that same type of energy. Sometimes I will wake up and do my gratitude exercise only to discover morning road rage on my way to work. I take a deep breath and tell myself I'm hitting a "reset" button for my day. That's not the energy I want to put out there for the day!
- Turn a negative into a positive. If you perceive something negative is happening, ask yourself, "What am I supposed to learn from this? What lesson is it teaching me?" Often, you can see how the situation may be helping you without even realizing it.
We can’t control everything that happens in our lives but we can certainly control our outlook or reaction to it. Feeling gratitude is the best way to bring inner peace. And if you believe in the Law of Attraction, a way to bring positive things into your life. So why not make this a daily practice instead of a holiday practice?
Shannon Steffee is a magazine editor by day, and a mom, health nut, and music lover by night. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about health-related topics and sharing her personal experience with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and gluten-free eating. You can find her on Twitter: @ShanSteffee. She is based in Orlando.