Deriving from the Latin word gratia, gratitude is the act of reflecting and appreciating all that you have received, be it tangible or intangible. It is the process of recognizing that you have something positive in your life, and it has come from an external source. Not only does the act of giving-thanks connect people to each other, improve psychological health, and make people happier, preliminary research shows it may also serve a biological purpose as well! Evidence is still being collected, but early studies show there may be a correlation between daily gratitude and improved heart health, headaches, gastrointestinal health, and better sleep. Additionally, it leads people to engage in more positive behaviors and reduces stress, which may have a downstream effect on physical and mental health.
So now that we know the benefits of recognizing the good things in life, how do we get started on making it a daily habit? Here are 5 ways to exercise gratitude in your daily routine.
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Conceptually, practicing gratitude seems like an easy task. But without working it in to a daily routine, it may be the first thing to go. Keeping a daily gratitude journal helps you to make a more conscious effort to think about things that you are grateful for. Putting pen to paper helps you to practice mindfulness and gives you a record of the positives in your life that you can refer back to at a later time. Work it in to your morning routine to set the tone for the day, or make it the last thing you do to end your day on a positive note.
2. Make It A Part Of Your Dinner Conversation
Growing up, my family had one routine that I think back on fondly. Every evening around the dinner table, we each shared one positive moment from our day. As an adult, my memory may not be completely accurate. Maybe this actually only occurred when there was too much bickering and my mom wanted to shift the conversation. Regardless, it is something that I have carried with me in to my adult-life and use to this day. Dinner is the perfect time to reflect on your day with your loved-ones. But how often does talking about your day turn in to venting about its challenges? Starting the conversation with “tell me one thing that went well for you today?” or “tell me something that made you laugh today?” can quickly set the tone of the conversation. It will help you to put your energy into positive reflection rather than negative rumination. It will also get you in the practice of recognizing the good things, regardless of how small they may be.
3. Acts Of Kindness
Often times, giving back to others may be the key to improving your own well-being. Not only does it connect you to members of your community, it also gives you a chance to use your skills or develop new skills you didn’t know you had. It may also help you to recognize the positive things in your life you have previously taken for granted. Best of all, it makes a positive impact in the lives of others, which is reason enough to work volunteering in to your schedule.
4. Identify The Cause Of Something Good
First recognize something good that has happened in your day, then take a moment to reflect on what made that happen. Often you will find there is an external source that helped to make it happen. By taking a moment to identify the source of your happiness, it will help you to recognize all the people in your life that are doing good on your behalf. It may also shine light on people you should take time to thank and further connect with.
5. Write Thank-You Notes
Similar to keeping a gratitude journal, putting your thanks in writing forces you to think more consciously about what you are thankful for. But this time, you have the added benefit of delivering happiness to someone else as well! Thank-you notes helps you to foster relationships and build better connections.