Giving Thanks: How to Make Gratitude Part of Your Daily Practice

Cultivating gratitude takes very little time and no money whatsoever, and it's an easy way to combat negative feelings 365 days a year.

‘Tis the season to count your blessings. With the holidays fully upon us and Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is an optimal time to consider all we have to be grateful for. But for many, the holiday season can also be a period of stress and sadness — whether you feel overwhelmed with the pressure to host a flawless Thanksgiving feast for your in-laws or down in the dumps due the financial burden that comes with Santa’s anticipated arrival.

Cultivating gratitude takes very little time and no money whatsoever, and it’s an easy way to combat any of those negative feelings 365 days a year. In fact, research shows that expressing thanks can have immense benefits on your overall quality of life. Not only can showing appreciation open the door to new relationships and flourishing friendships, it can vastly improve both your physical and mental health. Grateful people are more likely to take care of their health through exercise and consistent check-ups, and they also experience fewer toxic emotions such as jealousy, resentment and frustration. Sleep and self-esteem can also improve: One study shows that spending a few minutes writing positive thoughts in journal may result in a more restful sleep, while other studies suggest that putting gratitude into a consistent practice can reduce social comparisons, making you more satisfied with your own life.

Expressing gratitude places the focus on what you have rather than what you lack, and with enough practice, it can start to come naturally. Here are a few ways to put gratitude into action year-round:

Keep a gratitude journal

Take just five minutes each evening to write down a few things you were grateful for that day. It can be as general as being grateful for your supportive spouse or as specific as someone who gave you a kind smile in the Target aisle. You can use an old notebook, a scrap piece of paper or even a specific gratitude journal such as The Five-Minute Journal.

Write a thank-you note

We’re not talking a text or an email. Writing and sending an old-fashioned thank-you card or letter helps you go the extra mile to show your appreciation. Not only does it help nurture your relationship with the other person, but it can help you feel productive — it’s a win-win!

Practice meditation

Practicing mindful meditation can allow you to focus on the present moment free of judgement. You can try a helpful smartphone app like HeadSpace or Calm, or simply opt for some deep breathing for several seconds, focusing on what you have to be thankful for.

Change your mindset

Consider your day-to-day surroundings with a cheerful outlook and a point of gratitude. Rather than thinking something negative (i.e. the traffic jam is making you bonkers), think positively (i.e. you are safe and can afford to have a car).

Volunteer or give back

By donating your time, money or resources, it will allow you a chance to consider your blessings and realize how fortunate you truly are. And a selfless task is liable to make you feel good, too!

How do you give thanks year-round? Comment and tell us on Facebook!

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