Best Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
In Canada, many are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. Whether you celebrate or not, there is a lot to be grateful for and that deserves celebration on its own. With the change in seasons and hectic holiday months ahead, October is a good time to cultivate more gratitude and witness the benefits it has for our mental and physical wellbeing. How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude or make it a state of mind throughout the year? We’re continually discovering, learning and trying new ways as we grow, but these ones have stuck. It might sound or feel silly at first, but the proof is in the science — gratitude is powerful.
What is gratitude and why is it important for our health? The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude encompasses all of these meanings in some way. Gratitude is the simple appreciation of the good we receive in our lives. It can help us through the difficult things we receive too. In the process, we usually recognize that goodness comes from something larger than ourselves.
Gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness and health. Gratitude helps us feel more positive emotions while enhancing empathy and reducing aggression. It improves self-esteem and builds mental strength. It helps us savour experiences and life’s little things (like coffee and plants). It improves our physical health by promoting better care for ourselves — including encouraging us to exercise more, helping us sleep more soundly and increasing heart health. It helps us deal with adversity, build stronger relationships and even become better leaders.
Sounds like a miracle, right? It is in a way; but just like any good thing in life, it takes work to express gratitude and make it a habit. Give these a try and see what works for you.
How to Express Gratitude
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Make it a habit and write down what you are grateful for each day. It can be as little as one thing or as many as you like. You can do this at the end of your day before bed, or at the start of your day as you set your intentions and goals. Or, both. Either way, this habit will show you what you already have to be grateful for. Even in the face of adversity. Gratitude helps us see the silver lining so we can learn and grow through life’s hard times.
2. Write a Simple Note
Nurture relationships and make yourself happier simply by writing notes of gratitude. Expressing your appreciation and joy of a person's impact on your life is therapeutic. Send a card or deliver it in person. Make a habit of sending handwritten notes throughout the year. We’re big fans of writing notes. Here are a few tips on how to express gratitude with writing and why it’s important.
3. Say Thank You more
Not up for writing a note? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank them. Better yet, thank them in person. Simply saying thank you more will help you recognize all the things (big and small) you have to be grateful for. Thank people regularly throughout your day. Even if you don’t have to. It’s the little things that go a long way.
4. Get Outside
Get outside to get some fresh air, let the sun fall on your face, enjoy the colours of fall leaves or the crunch of snow underfoot. No matter what time of year, nature is stunning and has a way of humbling us and showing us what we have to be grateful for. Spending more time outside won’t let you forget it. Plus, it’s good for your mental and physical health to keep moving, especially amongst the trees.
Meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Focus on what you're grateful for, a word or intention, your breath or nothing at all. Start small and grow. It can be hard at first, so try an app or a guided meditation class. You can train your brain to be mindful and meditate anywhere. During yoga, while riding transit (seriously), as you walk or run outside. Even when your kid is having a meltdown, you’re called into another meeting or during other moments of daily stress. Focus on your breath, ground yourself in the moment and gain clarity. Places of calm and gratitude can exist anywhere if you let them in.
How do you express gratitude in your life? We’d love to know. We’re grateful to have you here reading this post. Thank you! You’re swell.