For most of us the word grateful comes up most often when we think of Thanksgiving and the holidays. If we are lucky, we start to reflect on our blessings and give thanks. According to 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 blessing during the holidays, but what about throughout the entire year?
Research has shown that being grateful can have a multitude of 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. “Flourish.”
So if we want to be more grateful in order to increase our happiness and health, what can we do?
Here is a list of 15 simple exercises to help you be more grateful today:
1. Gratitude Journal
Spend 10 minutes each night writing down three things you are grateful for. They can be small, little things from your day. Identify what went well and why they went well. There are many versions you can use for this exercise or simply take a plain blank notebook and write out your blessings daily.
2. Gratitude Letter
Close your eyes and think of someone who had a positive impact in 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. Thank you email
We regularly have people in our lives who help us out in small ways yet we often don’t 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. Greeting 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, tasteand feeling it gives you. Notice the gratitude that arises from slowing down and appreciating the food you have.
6. Dinner Gratitude
When sitting down as a family it can be a great time to go around the table and each identify one thing that you are grateful for. You are not only recognizing the good in your day, but you are encouraging your children to do the same.
7. Celebrate Awesomeness
Make a point to 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, kind of like a vision board, which has 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
Spend time practicing giving and contributing to others. Acts of kindness is 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. Take a look at what you can do to make someone else’s life better and more meaningful within your own budget and time constrains. Maybe it is small acts of kindness like pulling in your neighbor’s 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 find yourself complaining often? Just notice how often you find yourself complaining and look to reduce when and how often it happens. You can even use a visual clue to help you such as these neat bracelets from the website www.acomplaintfreeworld.org.
11. Think outside the box
When expressing and thinking about gratitude, the big obvious things come to mind first. We are thankful for all of the good we have in our lives. What about the not so good? Understanding and appreciating the negative as well as the positive can stretch those gratitude muscles a bit further. For example, perhaps you can identify something you are grateful about a time you were passed 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 find ourselves comparing our lives to others and that 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 the way you communicate with others and identify areas to increase the positive each day.
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 out 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 , 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 – Best part of the day
A – what did I Accomplish
G – What am I Grateful for?
If you are interested, you can check out this website: http://www.maximize-wellness.com/bag.html and I welcome you to join me in the facebook group Fill Your BAG Happy!