Gratitude practices are well known for their ability to fight a case of the blues. When you’re feeling down or stressed out, it’s the best time to focus on the things in you’re life that your grateful for. Not only has gratitude been found to lift spirits and happiness levels, but research says a consistent gratitude practice can also:
- Strengthen the immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease feelings of loneliness
- Improve relationships
- Increase motivation
- Improve sleep quality and quantity
- Improve overall physical and psychological health
3 Types of Gratitude
Gratitude can come from different places and times in life, and can be expressed in different ways. So if you’re having a particularly difficult day and it’s tough to come up with something you’re grateful for in the present — try using a spark from the past or wish for the future, instead. Consider these three types of gratitude to fuel your practice:
- Being thankful for the past: Diving back into positive memories and experiences
- Being thankful for the present: Feeling grateful as things come; not taking things for granted
- Being thankful for the future: Keeping faith in good fortune that is to come
6 Mindful Gratitude Practices
There are many ways you can practice gratitude so you can get the positivity boost — even when you don’t feel like it. Instead of just going through the motion of finding something to be grateful for, see if you can make it a mindfulness practice of really experiencing the feeling of gratitude with detail. Here are a few ways to do just that …
Thank You Notes
Try to make this an actual handwritten note that you can send in the mail or leave at someone’s desk or on his or her car. Make it warm and detailed. Tell them how the thing they did made you feel. Not only will it be the highlight of their day, it’ll also make you feel good and bring you closer together.
As soon as you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, identify five things in your life that you’re grateful for. No better way to start the day than thinking about the people and things in your life that you appreciate.
Take a comfortable seat with your spine tall and your eyes softly closed. Begin by bringing awareness to your breath, in and out through your nose. Then begin to identify something or someone that you’re your grateful for. Take a moment to visualize this person or thing in your mind, experience this person or thing with all of our senses, and reflect on what about this person or thing makes you feel grateful. How does this person or thing make you feel? If time allows, repeat with three different people or things in your life.
Keep a daily journal, and at the same time every day (morning or bedtime usually works well), write down three things in your life that you’re grateful for and why — this can be anything from family members or a roof on your head to a gift received or a talent you’re proud of.
Listen to Music
For some people, it is difficult to practice gratitude with words. Most instructions for gratitude practices will tell you to write something down or think of something specific that you are grateful for. If this doesn’t work for you, use music to help you conjure up a feeling of gratitude. Put something on that helps you get out of any negative thoughts or sensations you are experiencing, and let the music wash over you. Give yourself permission to forgo the need to identify something concrete or specific, and instead, just feel gratitude in your body through the power of music.
Before you eat your next meal, consider recognizing how many steps the food had to travel before getting onto your plate. Give thanks to the farmers, the transportation, the grocery or farmer’s market employees, anyone who prepared the meal — picture each of these steps and people along the way, giving thanks for their contribution to your meal. This is a perfect group or family gratitude practice for Thanksgiving Day.
Try doing one of these practices every day for 30 days straight and notice how it makes you feel.
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