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5 Fresh Ways to Practice Gratitude    

5 Fresh Ways to Practice Gratitude

Artwork by Andrew Wetmore

By Hallie Belle Sheinbaum

Practicing gratitude is something we hear about a lot in the wellness world, especially around this time of year as Thanksgiving approaches. It’s a popular topic for good reason – research shows that when we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Other studies have shown that practicing gratitude regularly has the power to heal, energize, and transform our lives by enhancing us psychologically, spiritually, physically, and cognitively. 

So how exactly does one go about practicing gratitude? It takes more than saying thank you (though that never hurts), and there are many different ways to approach it. To help you find a routine that works for you, we’ve put together a list of different ways you can practice gratitude, below. 

Wake Up Right With a Gratitude Journal:

Practicing gratitude in the morning can help start your day on a happier note while also reducing depression and anxiety. An easy way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. When we write our feelings down vs. speaking them out loud, the memory of what we’ve written lasts longer.  Studies have also shown that writing our feelings can reduce anxiety over time. With a morning gratitude journal, the key is to let your thoughts flow. You will be surprised by the chain reaction of how thinking of one thing you’re grateful for can lead to another.  

To help you get those ideas flowing, use these prompts. Write about:

  • A person you are grateful for 
  • A place you are grateful for
  • An activity you are grateful for
  • A food you are grateful for
  • Anything else you feel grateful you have in the present moment

Bonus: On days when you’re not feeling your best, return to your gratitude journal to remind yourself of all the great things in your life. 

Give Thanks to Others:

A recent study showed that expressing gratitude affects not only yourself but anyone who witnesses or receives it. Every day, try to think about someone you are grateful for, whether it is a friend you talk to frequently, a teacher you had many years ago, or an old boss. Sending someone a text, an email, or, better yet, a letter in the mail explaining something you appreciate about them can be a great way to practice gratitude while also making someone else feel good about themselves. 

It can be something as simple as, “Thank you for believing in me. I am grateful to know someone like you,” or more detailed, like “I saw you raised money for [X], that is so incredible, and I am grateful there are people like you in the world.” 

Express Gratitude Through Acts Of Kindness:

Giving to others also produces feelings of gratitude. In one study, the pioneering happiness researcher Barbara Fredrickson found that “when you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well, and in the process, you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.” Another study has shown that people can become happier overtime after they start volunteer and service work.

Try expressing gratitude through acts of kindness at least once a day.  Buy coffee for a friend (or a stranger!), offer to go grocery shopping for your grandma, engage in active listening when your sibling is talking about their day, or volunteer at your community’s local food bank.

Write a “Thank-Me-Card”:

It often feels more natural to thank others instead of thanking ourselves, but studies show that taking a moment to express self-compassion can lead to greater resilience, increased productivity, and decreased stress.  Writing yourself a “thank-me-card” gives you the opportunity to remind yourself of your strengths and can help to ward off negative self-talk in the process. 

Have fun with your thank-me-card! Write about something you’ve done that you are proud of, a personal character trait/quality that you admire, a risk you took, a positive change you made, an obstacle you overcame, or a creative idea you had that paid off. If this feels unnatural for you, try imagining that you are writing it as a compassionate friend of yours. 

Develop a Gratitude Buddy System:

When it comes to forming new habits, there is power to accountability. Develop a routine with a friend of texting each other one thing you are grateful for each day to keep you both inspired. Research shows that if you start a new habit while someone is holding you accountable, there is a 95% probability of completing your goal compared to when you do it alone, which has only a 65% probability of success.   Having this dialogue with another person regularly can also help you form a closer bond. 

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here.