Have you noticed that you actually feel better around Thanksgiving for seemingly no reason at all? It could be the food, the camaraderie or simply the long holiday weekend that puts us in good spirits.
The field of psychology has studied and found another reason behind this pleasant uplift in our mood, our hopeful outlook on life and the feeling of peace that can be present during the holiday time of year. The benefits of gratitude and practicing it has been shown to change your mindset, your entire mood and studies show it can even ripple out and ultimately change your life.
the benefits of practicing gratitude
Unbelievable and too simple, right? Numerous studies have explored the effects of gratitude and have found strong evidence suggesting that the answer to happiness is simple – practice gratitude.
When we express gratitude our mind is trained to seek the positive in each situation. When we see the positive in others, in ourselves, in our work, in experiences that we face this positivity ripples out and we can make new friends, attract new opportunities, sleep better, feel an increased self-esteem, overcome trauma, feel healthier and experience an increase in overall wellbeing.
7 easy ways to bring gratitude into your life
Intrigued to try it but not sure where to start? Read on to learn 7 easy and unexpected ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily schedule and discover if a focus on gratitude begins to change your life.
1. MORNING RITUAL
Beginning the day expressing gratitude sets the tone for your entire day. If you are like most people in the morning you don’t want to add yet another thing to your day. Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to take any extra time!
Think of 3 things you are grateful for during these morning moments and find the time that works best for you.
• In bed, right after you turn your alarm off
• In the shower
• As you’re shaving
• While you are brushing your teeth
• As you drink your morning tea/coffee
• During your morning workout
• When you are waiting for your bus/train/shared ride
• While you are waiting at a stop light or sitting in traffic
• The first thing you do when you arrive at work
2. DAILY CHALLENGE
Thank one person each day for something very specific. It should be a complete sentence where you acknowledge exactly what you appreciate and why. We receive appreciation differently when we know exactly what we did that was appreciated.
Have you ever had someone distractedly say, “Thank you” while walking past? Compare that to when someone speaks to you directly and tells you exactly what you did that was helpful. The second one feels different, right?
In addition, when we hear specifics it triggers our mind to want to repeat that exact thing in the future. So, get specific and creative! You might be surprised what a bigger impact your gratitude makes when you go little farther to say specifically what you’re thankful for.
Thank you for holding the door, I appreciated that!
Thank you for greeting me with a smile today, it really uplifted my mood.
Thank you for your text, it made me smile to get your message.
Thank you for ….
I appreciated when you …
3. ACKNOWLEDGE AN ACT OF KINDNESS
Have you ever witnessed someone do something nice in front of you? Reward them with acknowledgment. You don’t always have to say thank you or that you appreciate them for doing something nice. Simple acknowledgment also works and is very impactful.
The key is you have to observe around you, not be looking down at your phone, in order to witness the acts of kindness that exist every day. Use your words freely and see how quickly you witness the positive mood ripple around and within you.
One day I was sitting at a cafe and people watching. Down the street, I saw a women pushing a stroller and rushing. The child in the stroller threw a toy out of the stroller and the mother didn’t notice. They were a bit far from me but as I was rising out of my chair to go get the toy a stranger behind her grabbed the toy, caught up with her and made sure she knew it was from her child.
This act of kindness put a smile on the mother’s face and mine! She expressed her gratitude and as the stranger was passing me I decide to connect eyes with them and say, “That was really nice of you to pick up the toy.” In response, the strangers face lit up in a shy smile and they answered, “Thanks, I couldn’t just leave it there.”
The truth is they could have left the toy. It was a choice. It was a positive choice from a place of kindness and the more we acknowledge these acts the more motivated people can be to do good deeds and make the world a better place.
4. GRATITUDE MESSAGES
A sure way to make someone's day is to reach out spontaneously. Contact a friend, colleague, old boss, past teacher, a coach, a relative you rarely talk to or another person that has impacted your life in some way to say a simple thank you for their influence in your life or reminisce about a special memory you shared with them.
keep it spontaneous!
Let it be spontaneous and reach out to them when a memory of them comes to mind. So often we think of a memory or a person and do not take the next step to reach out to them.
Reaching out to them with a quick text, email or handwritten card is sure to make their day and put you in a gratitude state of mind as you reminisce and reconnect with them.
5. SECRET GRATITUDE GIVER
This is something that’s not a thing but I feel should be. Better than a Secret Santa is a Secret Gratitude Giver, in my humble opinion.
This is the person who writes a little post-it note, card or does another action in gratitude for someone who deserves a little appreciation but doesn’t like to be in the limelight or called out face to face.
anonymity is key
The key here is to not get caught and remain a mystery to the person who you gave gratitude words or actions. The important element to this gratitude expression is they must not know who you are.
On one hand, it is really good to directly tell someone what you appreciate them for. On another hand, some people can be really shy and uncomfortable with receiving praise. This form of secret gratitude ensures a complete selfless giving and offers a positive appreciation that shy people truly need without the discomfort of a direct comment.
Yes, I made up the title Secret Gratitude Giver, but try it anyway. Doing a good deed, remaining anonymous and seeing the positive ripple of that good deed is truly priceless.
6. GRATITUDE GRATUITY GIFT
There are a handful of people in our lives that are technically strangers but become a familiar face you see regularly. Your corner store attendant, your local bartender, your barista, your doorman, the valet and on the list goes.
go beyond a tip
For these individuals, in addition to if you leave a tip, bring a small gift. A chocolate bar, a small bag of flavored popcorn, fruit from a tree in your backyard or the farmers market or any other small gift that is a thoughtful gesture and token of your appreciation.
Another person who you rarely see but daily takes care of you is your mail person. Imagine their surprise if you leave a gift inside your mailbox on a random day that’s not Thanksgiving or Christmas, a day just because they are there every day and you are grateful for them.
This is guaranteed to be a day maker for these special people in your life that truly make each day better and rarely get acknowledgment.
7. EVENING RITUAL
Similar to the Morning Ritual the Evening Ritual is finding a time in the evening routine to reflect on the day and express gratitude for the things or people that you appreciated throughout the day.
• During your commute home
• While you work out
• As dinner cooks on the stove
• When you wash your face
• During muted commercials
• After you get into bed before you turn out the lights
Keep the gratitude flowing
As you see, there are many opportunities during daily life to express gratitude in unexpected ways. I know that the days I am feeling the best are the days when someone expresses that they are grateful for me for something specific and when I have made an effort to express my gratitude in life and to others.
Living life this way is equal to developing an attitude of gratitude and is truly one of the simplest ways to improve your happiness and enhance the life of those around you. Let’s spread the holiday spirit throughout the year and make gratitude a daily act!
The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting
The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain
Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being