Over the years, studies have shown the many powers of gratitude. It can positively impact our health, self-esteem, relationships, and so much more.
Even now, a 2021 study in the “Frontiers of Psychology” examined the impact of writing about gratitude during the pandemic. The results? People who wrote about experiences they were grateful for felt more positive emotions and were more willing to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as helping others and donating food to those in need.
Gratitude, unfortunately, does not come naturally. Quite the opposite: Our brains typically scan for everything that is wrong in the world. But we can train our brains to focus on the positive by practicing gratitude, says Keir Brady, a marriage and family therapist and author of “A Year of Gratitude Journal: 52 Weeks of Prompts and Exercises to Cultivate Positivity and Joy.”
To gain the greatest benefits from a gratitude practice, get super specific when thinking of examples. Instead of, “I’m grateful for my daughter,” try, “I’m grateful my daughter took the time to sit with me this morning so we could catch up.” The specificity helps make the feeling “stick.” Also, don’t always write about the same topics: Pick something different and not-so-obvious.
You can make gratitude into a daily habit by writing in a journal first thing in the morning, says Brady, or at night as part of your bedtime routine. Prefer not to write? Find a gratitude buddy, meaning someone you can text daily to share what you’re thankful for, or reflect on a question about gratitude that resonates with you while you’re doing something else that’s “mindless,” such as going for a run or washing dishes.
To boost your gratitude, even in difficult times, consider these 10 questions posed by Brady and other experts. They’ll help turn your focus from what’s going wrong to what’s going well:
- What was one positive experience that happened today?
- What do I usually take for granted that’s actually really important to me?
- What made me feel proud today?
- What are three things that I can see, hear, or touch that I’m grateful for?
- What is one thing that I am grateful for about myself?
- What is one thing that I am grateful for about someone else?
- What pleasantly surprised me today?
- What seemingly small thing am I grateful for?
- Who at work has recently made my job easier?
- Who am I grateful for today, and how can I show them my appreciation?