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  • Making gratitude a habit

    In today’s turbulent world, it can be difficult to find happiness and practice gratitude regularly. So often we become weighed down by the responsibilities of our jobs, our families, and other crazy life tasks that it is easy to lose sight of life’s purpose. Life is too short to be living in constant anxiety. This is where gratitude comes in to play. Gratitude is defined as a state of thankfulness, appreciation, and gratefulness. This article will discuss the benefits of gratitude and different strategies to practice it.   

    Impacts of gratitude 

    Gratitude is an element that contributes to individuals and communities thriving. This is a path to lead individuals to live fulfilling lives. It is about changing your mindset from “what’s wrong” to “what’s right.” Many studies have shown that gratitude can improve your physical, emotional, spiritual, and social parts of your life. Physically, it can increase your quality of sleep, reduce blood pressure, and boost your mental health. Professionally, it can help you find meaning in the workplace, make you an effective manager or employee, and improve decision making skills. In terms of personal relationships, it strengthens connections within a family, makes people more inclined to like you, and increases social support.  With the undeniable benefits of gratitude, here are some techniques to amplify the frequency of it in your life.     

    7 ways to practice gratitude

    Everyone is unique and requires different methods to learn something new. Practicing gratitude is no different. Here are a variety of ways to help practice gratitude: 

    1. Make a list 

    Create a list of five things that you are grateful for. Whether it is a mental list or a physical one, finding five good things that occurred during the day can bring balance to the stressors encountered. This list does not need to be extravagant. Just five little things that occurred during your day that made it better. An example could be that your coffee or tea today tasted nice this morning, or traffic was not a disaster on your commute to work. If journaling or creating a mental note is not effective for you, try sharing your list with a partner, family member, or friend.     

    2. Smile more often  

    Smiling has a plethora of benefits that coincide with gratitude. Smiling changes the way you view the world and perceive different experiences. When you are smiling, you are more likely to have a positive interpretation of events surrounding you. This is caused by a reaction in the brain. The amygdala is the emotional processing center of the brain. Therefore, when you move your facial muscles to smile, it stimulates the amygdala, which then tricks you into thinking happier thoughts. In addition, a person smiling is significantly more approachable than one who is not. It makes you appear happier and healthier, which can indirectly improve your social connections.  

    3. Share your gratitude   

    Express your emotions when you are feeling them. Joy is contagious. If you are grateful for something a coworker did at work, let them know. If you appreciate your spouse doing a random act of kindness that day, share that with them. This brightens another’s day while also increasing your own happiness. Sharing your gratitude with others is a win-win situation. 

    4. Forgive yourself 

    In our culture of productivity and technology, there is often little room for error. This gets converted into no room for forgiveness towards yourself. Humans are flawed creatures and are prone to making mistakes. It is unreasonable to expect perfection from yourself. Allowing yourself the freedom to fail releases that pressure. This, in turn, lifts your sense of contentment.  

    5. Spend time with those important to you 

    Whether quality time is a simple phone call or meeting for coffee, spending moments with your loved ones can raise your gratitude. Quality time is beneficial in strengthening relationships and building emotional bonds. Research has found that quality time with your family boosts your confidence, while also promoting adaptability and resilience.  This can raise your feelingof self-efficacy and make practicing gratitude even easier.   

    6. Avoid negative news, media, or films 

    The news and some social media platforms seem to be filled with negative, heavy, and depressing articles. It can become difficult to brush that negativity off and keep a positive outlook on life. Reducing your amount of exposure to the news can ease that burden. Yes, it is important to stay informed on current events. However, make sure that you are in a good mindset before reading the news. To obtain that mindset, set aside a specific time during your day to read the news or take time to read positive news stories as well. Many media outlets have these types of stories that you can subscribe to specifically.

    7. Keep your thanks current 

    Find new things to be grateful for every week. This serves as a reminder of all the great things occurring in your life. This helps you avoid falling into a state of stagnation with your thanks. This can strengthen your authenticity as well. Be genuine with your thanks. Finding new things to be grateful for allows you to see beyond the stress of your life’s responsibilities and enjoy the good things for what they are worth.     

    Next Steps 

    Constantly practicing gratitude is a challenge. It is hard to maintain a positive outlook on life. However, practice makes perfect.  In no time, actively practicing gratitude will become second nature. These are only a few tips on how to practice it. For more tips, try this resource for 40 other ways to make it a habit. Your therapist will have other strategies for practicing gratitude as well. Your therapy session with your counselor is a great time to reflect on your life and to take stock of the areas you want to improve. For help on practicing gratitude, contact us at [email protected] or at (320) 582-3762.

    This article was written by Grace Graham, Wayzata Bay Wellness intern.