In the last decade, gratitude has become a buzzword. We see it everywhere, especially around this time. But don’t let gratitude’s trendiness dissuade you from being more appreciative. Because it really does enhance our lives.
For instance, gratitude has been linked to everything from fewer aches and pains to better sleep to greater happiness and reduced depression.
And thankfully, you can practice gratitude in all kinds of meaningful ways throughout your entire day. Here’s how—starting from when you open your eyes to when you close them.
In the Morning
As you’re waking up, identify one thing you’re looking forward to that day, says Lea Seigen Shinraku, MFT, a California-based therapist and founder of The San Francisco Center for Self-Compassion.
If you can’t think of anything, focus on the fact that everything changes. For example, she says, maybe you’re grateful that this day will eventually end, your painful feelings will pass (as feelings always do), and you have incredibly supportive friends. Or maybe you’re grateful for yourself and your ability to navigate a difficult situation.
Shinraku also suggests taking one very conscious and deep breath—feeling and appreciating the way your body is nourished on the inhale, and the way it relaxes slightly with the exhale.
As you’re getting out of bed, when each foot hits the floor, say “thank” and “you,” says Ronnie Walter, an artist and author of “Gratitude with Attitude.” “Such a simple movement can propel us into our day with power and excitement.”
Take a one-minute mid-morning or mid-afternoon to simply look out the window and notice “a brief slice of nature, a small kindness, or even a genuine human interaction,” says Walter. You can also thank one colleague or client each day, either by email or in person.
Courtney E. Ackerman, the author of “My Pocket Gratitude,” suggests setting up triggers for gratefulness, such as certain words or sights, to help make gratitude a habit throughout the day. For example, when she hears the word “difficult,” she pauses and finds three things she’s grateful for.
On Your Lunch Break
“Just before you begin eating, take a moment to consider and reflect on all the hands and forces of nature that made it possible for this meal to be here in front of you today—the earth, sun, rain, farmer, farmworker, trucker, grocer, baker, cook, server…,” says Shinraku.
You also can acknowledge how fortunate you are to have a meal in front of you that nourishes your body, says Walter.
An hour or so before bed, set a timer for 20 minutes to write a letter to someone who’s inspired you or helped you during a difficult time. You can even turn this into a fun challenge.
In her book “The Thank-You Project,” Nancy Davis Kho writes about psychologist Shannon Connery, who composed 100 letters in 100 days. A 2016 study published in “Psychotherapy Research” highlighted the power of letter writing—even when you’re struggling with mental health concerns.
The study found that students who sought therapy and penned gratitude-filled letters experienced better mental health than students who solely had counseling or wrote about their stressful experiences.
And you don’t have to send your letter to reap the rewards. In the same study, only 23 percent of students actually sent their letters, but those who didn’t still enjoyed the mental health benefits.
Other ways to end the day with a dose of appreciation include, listening to a guided gratitude meditation or simply naming a few things you appreciated about your day.
The great thing about gratitude is that you don’t need to change a single thing about your life to savor it. You simply need to adjust your perspective. And you can practice gratitude anytime, anywhere. In fact, maybe you can start right now.