Gratitude is a feeling that occurs in interpersonal exchanges when one person acknowledges receiving a valuable benefit from another. Gratitude is a cognitive-affective state that is typically associated with the perception that one has received a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person [Emmons].
When you experience and/or express gratitude, it can lead to more positivity, life satisfaction and overall well-being. By paying attention to the positive events and people in your life you can start to look for more of these experiences and cultivate daily gratitude.
Finding gratitude and having a positive perspectives not only aids in times of stress and helps prevent future difficulties but can also lower blood pressure, improve immune function, promote happiness, and spur acts of helpfulness, generosity, and cooperation. Gratitude also reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders [Emmons].
Gratitude anchors two important perspectives:
- An affirming of goodness or “good things” in one’s life
- Recognition that sources of this goodness lie, at least partially, outside the self
People who experience high levels of gratitude exhibit more positive states and life satisfaction. Similarly, expressing gratitude has also been linked to greater optimism, higher energy, and fewer reported physical symptoms due to the ability to savor positive experiences, people, and things, while simultaneously preventing the perceiver from taking these positive aspects of life for granted [Owens].
Experiencing gratitude provides the opportunity to receive the greatest satisfaction and joy from positive circumstances, while expressing gratitude can serve as an adaptive coping strategy by re-framing difficulties in a positive light [Owens].
10 Ways to Cultivate More Gratitude in Your Day
Read over these 10 tools and try one on today. All of these practices take less than 10 minutes a day, and will actually save you time, but more importantly energy. Your energy is valuable, cultivate positivity with gratitude and stop wasting your time (Tweet this).
1. Build a Routine
Showing gratitude at the end of your day is my favorite ritual. It gives me permission to reflect on my day and really identify how grateful I am. Each day that I practice showing gratitude I find more and more reasons to love life.
My colleague has a bedtime routine with her 3 year old and it includes recognizing what you are grateful for. When this part of the night comes, you can’t shut him up. There are so many things that we take for granted and when you listen to the long list that a child can come up with, it’s incredible… games, toys, people, food, songs, nature, tickles, etc.
2. Show it with Actions
A hug and a smile can go a long way. They can also communicate many messages. If someone looks like they are having a tough day, a smile can relate empathy and encouragement. If you haven’t seen someone in a year, a hug can describe the excitement and how meaningful the relationship is.
3. Use Your Words
Do you have manners? Please, thank you, and you’re welcome are loaded words. It’s easy to say them in passing, but it can relay so much more when you combine it with eye contact, meaning and genuine acknowledgement.
The next time your arms are full and someone holds the elevator doors for you, don’t just glance over your shoulder and say “thanks”, turn around look the person in their eyes and mean it. If you had missed the elevator it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the act of generosity is what’s important. Generosity is contagious, let it infect you so you can pass on the good deeds <– Tweet This.
Even if someone does something to piss you off, say “thank you” — and not sarcastically. Chances are they are having a worse day than you and a little empathy can help turn it around. And they are also allowing you to practice being mindful. Choosing how you react and respond to cultivate good will, happiness and longevity.
I always say, “It’s easy to be mindful when all is going well, but the true test is when you’re struggling. Will you let your buttons be pushed, or are you in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions?” (Click to Tweet)
4. Gratitude Journalling
Writing first thing in the morning and last thing before bed is the perfect time to journal.
Writing first thing in the morning starts your day off in a positive state of mind and maintaining optimism for whatever the day brings. Writing at night is a great reminder to feel blessed and be thankful for every day.
My favorite journal is the “Five Minute Journal” by my friends UJ Ramdas and Alex Ikonn. It’s a beautiful and simple book that is an incredible tool to cultivate gratitude. It’s one of those products that you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”.
My favorite part is actually the daily affirmations. It really has me stop and think about what kind of person I want to be that day. The quick and concise adjectives stays with me all day so that when I feel frustrated, impatient, negative or tired I can recall these 2-3 words that re-inspire me.
“I am strong, confident and focused”
5. Slow Down Your Pace and Look Around
Start walking to work, the grocery store, and the gym. Or just go for a walk in your neighborhood and take in the sights. It’s so easy to rush about and get tunnel vision. There are so many ways to get from Point A to B. And there’s even more things to see along the way. Life is not a race. Take your time. Slow your pace. Look around you. There is a world that is beyond your path and an adventure at every corner. (Tweet this awesomeness)
If you have children or a pet, I recommend moving at their pace and enthusiasm for an afternoon. Step into their “shoes” and experience the world with awe and excitement. It’s quite an eye opening experience.
6. Eat Mindfully
Breath, bite, chew, swallow, pause.
Before starting any meal, practice taking 3 slow deep breaths. As you eat, be mindful of where your food has come from and time, process and labor that has gone into your meal. Including yourself if you had a hand in preparing it.
Far too often we disassociate from the foods we eat. The steak you just inhaled was once a cow on a farmer’s field that was slaughtered, cut up, shipped to a grocery store or distributor, cut again, package for the shelves, then cooked. Even fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains have an origin story that should be respected.
When I was traveling through South East Asia, I attended a Vipassana and the food reflection always stuck with me. It goes:
“With wise reflection, I eat this food.
Not for play, not for intoxication,
Not for fattening, not for beautification.
Only to maintain this body
To stay alive and healthy
To support the spiritual way of life
Thus, I let go of unpleasant feelings
And do not stir up new ones.
Thereby the process of life goes on
Blameless, at ease and in peace.”
Nothing says gratitude than using what you have. Move around. Feel your body and be thankful for the ability to use it, in what ever capacity you have.
Exercise doesn’t have to look any particular way. It doesn’t mean deadlifts in the gym, aerobics classes at 6am or running a marathon. As long as your heart rate is going up, you are sweating, breathing heavily and strengthening your musculoskeletal system, you are exercising. Depending on your goals and life situations, the best exercise for you will be unique. Read more about the best and worse exercise regiments for you.
8. Sit Still
You don’t need to be in a deep meditation, just observant <–Tweetable. Listen to the wind, feel the sun on your skin, breath in the scent of the nearby garden, pay attention to the earth beneath you.
When you sit and be still you aren’t doing “nothing”. In fact, you are acknowledging the world around you and your own presence. You are in the moment. Void of your past and future. Void of your responsibilities, stresses and challenges. You are just here, now. That’s all. It’s the most freeing feeling of all to leave everything behind and be present.
9. Don’t gossip
Part of having gratitude is not spreading negativity. Focus on the positives. Even if you have criticism for someone else, make it constructive and have the decency to tell it to the person directly. If you’re worried they won’t take the new well, you should re-evaluate how you will say it and if it will make a positive impact on them. Don’t think you are “doing them a favor” by discussing it with all their friends first.
Out of respect and kindness avoid the toxicity of gossip.
10. Limit The Negative News
You don’t need to be ignorant to global and local events, but limit the amount of social media you use per day. Most cover stories are meant to shock, terrify and sweep you into a whirlwind of emotions. They don’t always feature the truth.
Other pieces of news are to distract you from meaningful work. Negative news includes tabloids, “trashy” magazines and television shows.
Focus more on positive events. Maybe you volunteer with a group or help out at your child’s fundraiser. Utilize your energy to do good in this world, rather than just a heckling spectator (Tweetable).