For most of us, the word grateful comes up most often when we think of Thanksgiving and the holidays.
If we are lucky, we reflect on our blessings and give thanks.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word Grateful as feeling or showing thanks: feeling or showing thanks for some helpful act.
It is wonderful to count your blessings during the holidays, but what about throughout the entire year?
Research has shown that being grateful can have many positive effects on our overall health and well-being.
“Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life,” excerpt From Martin E. P. Seligman.
So what can we do if we want to be more grateful to increase our happiness and health?
Here is a list of 15 simple exercises to help you be more grateful today:
1. Keep a gratitude journal
Spend 10 minutes each night writing three things you are grateful for in a gratitude journal.
They can be small, little things from your day.
Identify what went well and why it went well.
You can use many versions for this exercise or simply take a plain blank notebook and write out your blessings daily.
2. Write a gratitude letter
Close your eyes and think of someone who positively impacted your life.
Have you told them the impact they had on you?
Try writing them a letter expressing how they helped you and why it meant so much to you.
I recently connected on social media with a man who hired me for my first job in mental health.
That job paved the way for my graduate work and opened doors for me that I did not know existed.
It felt amazing to let him know how much I appreciate the opportunity he gave me 25 years ago.
3. Send a thank you email
We regularly have people in our lives who help us out in small ways, yet we rarely express our appreciation for them or what they did for us.
Set a time each day or each week to send a quick note or email to say thank you for something someone did that helped you out that day.
4. Greet others with gratitude
Start your conversations with others by noting one thing that you feel gratitude towards him or her for.
You are opening up more effective communication while increasing the potential to deepen the relationship.
5. Eat with gratitude and purpose
Next time you sit down to a meal, take your time to start the first few bites slowly and with purpose.
As you chew, notice the texture, taste, and feeling it gives you.
Notice the gratitude that arises from slowing down and appreciating the food you have.
6. Share what you’re grateful for during dinner
When sitting down as a family, it can be a great time to go around the table and identify one thing you are grateful for.
You recognize the good in your day but encourage your children to do the same.
7. Celebrate the awesomeness of others
Celebrate accomplishments you notice about other people.
For example, when I worked as a sales manager with a large team, I would do a “Friday Shout Out,” where I celebrated and thanked a team member for something awesome they did that week.
8. Create a visual primer
A primer is a reminder, like a picture on your screen saver or a picture over your desk.
Create a collage, like a vision board, with pictures and words that remind you of the good and the positive you are grateful for in your life.
Keep the board in a prominent place in your home or office to serve as a reminder of all you are grateful for.
9. Help others
Practice giving and contributing to others.
Acts of kindness are an opportunity to pay it forward and appreciate all that you have in your life.
You don’t need to take up all of your free time or donate more money than you can afford.
Look at what you can do to make someone else’s life better and more meaningful within your own budget and time constraints.
Maybe it is small acts of kindness for a neighbor, like pulling in their garbage cans or buying someone coffee.
Maybe it is donating your old clothes or volunteering at a non-profit in your area.
10. Reduce Complaining
Complaining can be considered the opposite of gratitude.
Do you complain often?
Just notice how often you complain and look to reduce when and how often it happens.
You can even use a visual clue to help you stop complaining, such as these neat bracelets from the website www.acomplaintfreeworld.org.
11. Be innovative
When expressing and thinking about gratitude, the big, obvious things come to mind first.
We are thankful for all the good we have in our lives.
What about the not-so-good?
Understanding and appreciating the negative and the positive can stretch those gratitude muscles further.
For example, perhaps you can identify something you are grateful for, like a time they passed you up for a promotion.
It is like I tell my daughter, “It is easy to be nice to your brother when he is being nice to you.
The key is, can you be kind to him even when he is annoying you?”
Can you find appreciation for all parts of your life?
12. Only compare yourself to yourself
We often compare our lives to others, which can instantly lead to comparisons that make us feel inferior.
The only comparison that matters within yourself.
Let go of the comparisons to others and appreciate all the fabulousness that is in you.
13. Watch your words
Have you ever taken the time to think about the words you use in a conversation with others?
Are they positive, motivating, or enlightening?
Start listening to how you communicate with others and identify areas to increase the positive daily.
14. Hang with like-minded people
Have you ever noticed how you feel when you are around others who spend their time complaining and expressing negativity?
If you want to be more positive and grateful, seek others who are what you want to become.
15. Practice Mindfulness
Practice being in the moment more often throughout your day.
Start with small tasks where you can approach them as if you are a child doing it for the first time.
What are you feeling, seeing, smelling, and thinking?
Pay attention to all your senses.
Paying attention to things as they are instead of thinking of them as you think they are supposed to be can be a start to increasing our appreciation for what is.
A bonus exercise you may like I call “Fill Your BAG Happy,” where you can identify gratitude using the letters of the word BAG as a reminder.
B—The best part of the day
A—What did I Accomplish?
G—What am I Grateful for?
Be more grateful today!
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