One of the fastest ways to up your happiness game is through practicing gratitude. Wherever you are on the happiness spectrum, gratitude has a place in your life.
I am a happy person by nature and even so, I have my down moments too. Whenever these feelings strike, gratitude is my first step toward happiness again.
What is Gratitude?
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of gratitude is “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful”. Often times people feel gratitude for what another person has done for them. You may feel gratitude when someone gives you a gift, holds a door open for you, or calls you just to say “Hi”. These are all great reasons to feel grateful!
You may also feel gratitude for things that are even bigger than what another does for you. Often, we realize that God (or the Universe or Divinity or another term that you may have) provides so much for us. Examples of this are when you are grateful for a beautiful sunset, feel a cool breeze running through your hair or see a field full of beautiful flowers.
Nature often inspires a feeling of connectedness that washes over you. I often feel a sense of peacefulness (and sometimes hope when I’m having a trying moment) when I am in nature.
Gratitude involves recognizing that there are good things happening in your life, right now. It also involves realizing that goodness comes to you through others such as God, loved ones and even strangers.
What Are the Benefits of Showing Gratitude?
Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has found that people who practice gratitude gain physical, psychological and social benefits. Included among these are the physical benefits of a stronger immune system and better sleep as well as the psychological benefits of more joy, pleasure, optimism and happiness. In addition, people who practice gratitude are more generous, more forgiving and feel more companionship.
And the best thing about gratitude is that is often extends beyond you. When you are happier you are more inclined to be kind and generous with others. When you’re kind and generous with others, they become happier… and the cycle continues. In simple terms, practicing gratitude makes you and those around you, happier!
This is the basis of the pay it forward phenomenon. You may be feeling grateful and decide that when you’re buying your morning cup of coffee you’re going to brighten someone else’s day by paying for the person behind you or leaving an extra large tip. Often the recipients of a little extra will proceed to give a little more themselves and so on. It all starts with a feeling of gratitude.
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So, How Do I Show Gratitude?
Be specific. While showing any type of gratitude is beneficial, “I am grateful for my family” day after day will have a different effect than being more specific on a daily basis. I could say, “I am grateful for Nick doing the dishes” one night and “I am grateful for snuggling with my children at the end of the day” the next. Both ways show gratitude for my family; the more specific I am the more I value the small moments.
As a quick side note, when I struggle to think of something specific, I practice being grateful for the modern conveniences that I enjoy each day. If you were to open my gratitude journal, you may find the following: “I am grateful for running water.” “I am grateful for my comfortable home.” “I am grateful for a warm home (in winter) or air conditioning (in summer).” Sometimes being grateful for the most basic necessities that I sometimes take for granted is very humbling.
Related Post: Give the Gift of Acceptance
Be realistic. Keeping a gratitude journal may be easier said than done. There may be times when it is too difficult to write before bed or first thing in the morning. Being flexible is the key to maintaining a true sense of gratitude. Also, if writing is out, then set aside some time each day to intentionally reflect on gratitude. It is more important to practice being grateful than to hold yourself to a specific format.
Make it fun. Nick and I like to weave gratitude into family routines each week. Sometimes we will go around the table while we’re eating together as a family and each family member will give a specific example (or several). Other times we incorporate it into family prayers. Each person will say something they are grateful for within their prayer that night. This helps us to teach gratitude to our children too. Hearing some of their thoughts can give us a laugh or a sweet surprise!
Share with others. If you’re feeling grateful for a specific person or group of people, share it with them. You may just make someone’s day!
I also enjoy rereading old gratitude journals. They really help me relive some amazing experiences that I would otherwise forget through the business of daily life. It is fun to take a quick trip down memory lane. I also enjoy realizing that some of my previous gratitude entries are some of the things that have shaped me into who I am today.
The Gratitude Challenge: 30 Days to a Happier You
With Thanksgiving around the corner, this is the perfect time to start a gratitude challenge, besides November has 30 days! Using our free Weekly Happiness Log will make it easy for you to record what you are grateful for each day. (Sign up in the box below for access!) In this challenge you only need to fill in the gratitude portion of the log, though you could fill in the extras too if you’d like.
Here’s the Challenge: On a daily basis, write three things that you are grateful for. The more specific you are, the easier it is to come up with different ideas each day. This is important because you are enabling yourself to find things you are grateful for.
Looking for more ways to find happiness? Read 8 Ways to Be Happier Right Now.
What are ways you are already showing gratitude in your life?