Did you know studies have shown that practicing gratitude can increase happiness, produce better sleep, boost energy levels, and reduce pain? And the benefits of gratitude do not end with your mental and physical health; a life of gratitude can also improve your career and your relationships. So, how do you go about bringing more gratitude into your life? One very effective way is practicing certain gratitude exercises and activities.
To reap the benefits of a grateful, positive attitude, consider adding the following exercises to your daily routine:
1. Create “Top 3” Gratitude Lists
When life gets busy and you get used to performing at a high level, it is easy to start overlooking the small things in your life that matter the most – the things that truly make your life worth living. Pausing to reflect and appreciate the many things that are going well in your daily life is one of the most valuable exercises you can do. One of the simplest ways to do this is to write down (or complete aloud) “top 3” lists for different aspects of your life:
Identify 3 things you often take for granted but are actually very thankful for.
Identify 3 things you like and appreciate about yourself.
Identify 3 things you feel grateful for about your experiences in the here and now.
Identify 3 people who have had a significant, positive impact on your life.
Identify 3 things that are wonderful about your life and you appreciate.
2. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
If you find the gratitude lists helpful, you might also enjoy taking the exercise a little deeper by keeping a daily gratitude journal. One of the most popular practices, keeping a gratitude journal has proven to leave people feeling happier and more energetic, decrease symptoms of sickness and increase the quality of sleep. How often and how much journaling should you do per week? Some suggest doing it every day, while others prefer once per week. If you begin to feel like journaling is becoming a banal task rather than an enjoyable practice, try switching from writing once per day to once per week. All in all, cater your practice to your individual need.
3. Write 365 Thank You Notes
Have you ever been going through the motions of your day when someone’s pure-intentioned actions stopped you in your tracks? Has a total stranger’s kind words ever turned your gloomy day around? If so, you know how powerful even the smallest warm-hearted gesture can be. Imagine the positive impact writing a simple thank you note every single day for a whole year could have on others and yourself. Hand-written thank you notes are a great way for you to give thanks for the ordinary, small things in life and ensure others feel validated and appreciated at the same time. In the words of American politician Bob Kerrey, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”
4. See the World Through Another Person’s Eyes
In our increasingly busy and cluttered lives, it is so easy to stop feeling appreciation for all the good things that make up our day. We are so set on pushing forward to the next goal, going on the next vacation, accumulating the next big thing and climbing the career ladder that we forget to appreciate what is around us right now. To rekindle your appreciation and gain a fresh perspective, try to see the ordinary details of your life through the eyes of another. As you do so, your eyes will be opened to the blessings you have. The discontented fog hanging over your head will drift away, giving you a clear view to appreciate all that you have.
5. Schedule Time for Gratitude Walks
Taking a few 10-minute walks throughout your day is not only good for your physical health, but it also positively impacts your mood and mental health. It presents a great opportunity to reflect on the simple things in life and empowers you to open your mind. You are giving yourself something incredibly valuable: time. Time to think, and time to feel. You are able to switch off your autopilot so you can feel alive and be more mindful of your surroundings. As you walk, take a deep breath and observe the simple wonders around you – the sun on your face, the cool breeze, the bright flowers, and so on. Within just a few minutes, you will feel noticeably less stressed, more connected and more appreciative.
6. Find Ways to Volunteer Your Time and Skills
Although it is typically portrayed as an act of selflessness and sacrifice, volunteering is actually great for your overall health and wellness. According to research, the act of volunteering promotes greater optimism and happiness, a greater sense of control and significantly higher personal well-being. Are you interested in volunteering, but are unsure of how and where to start? Before volunteering your time, consider the causes or issues you are passionate about and the skills and experience you have to offer. Volunteering is a great reminder to be grateful for all that you have, to spend more time in the here and now and that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
7. Put Things in Perspective
Of course, things in life are not always going to go your way. Situations can take a turn for the worst. Relationships can sour, become complicated and fall apart. Failure to reach your goals can leave you despondent. We tend to think of gratitude as an emotion we only experience when things are going well. But it is so much more powerful than that. Gratitude can also help you cope during tough times and help you regulate negative emotions more skillfully. After experiencing a negative event or in the face of challenges, gratitude can help you put things in perspective and persevere. Ask yourself questions like: “What can I learn from this?”, “How can I benefit from this?”, “Is there something about this situation or event I can be grateful for?”.
Paying attention to what you are grateful for is the most important key to finding success and happiness. It helps us discover who we truly are, what really matters to us and what makes each day worthwhile – it connects us to the world around us and to ourselves. The activities above will help you take the first steps to cultivating a life of gratitude and transforming your life for the better.
How do you go about bringing more gratitude into your life? These exercises and activities will help you take the first steps to cultivating a life of gratitude.