Starting a Gratitude Practice

While the holidays can be filled with family, feasts and festivities, it can also be a stressful time of year. Whether it’s a strained relationship, the struggle of celebration after a loss, overwhelming travel; the holidays can easily become a stressful time. How you handle stress can affect many aspects of your life from sleep, to mood, to productivity, to your ability to stay well – and one way to help alleviate stress and focus on the most positive things in life is with a Gratitude Practice.

What is a Gratitude Practice?
Simply put, a Gratitude Practice is the act of recognizing and being grateful for the good things in your life. This could be saying thanks out loud or better yet, writing it down in a journal. According to a study done by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

Get started with a written Gratitude Practice
You don’t need a fancy journal. A notebook or even a stack of post-it notes would work, but the first thing to do to start your Gratitude Practice is to think about the things you are grateful for, then write them down. This often starts with “I am grateful for…”, but you can also free-write your gratitude. Think about important people in your life or the things that allow you to life comfortably. What if you’re feeling so overwhelmed and stressed that you struggle to express gratitude? This is when it’s especially important to pause and really think about what is going well in your life. Start with simple recognition – and write in the first person, here are a few examples, “I am grateful for waking up this morning and seeing the sun.” “I am grateful for the calm sounds of a rainstorm.” “I am grateful for running water and taking a hot shower.” “I am grateful for my child’s smile.”

Turn a negative experience around through gratitude
Maybe you’ve experience a lot of heartache or struggle in recent times. A gratitude practice can help you flip the script and ‘look on the bright side’ of a negative situation. Maybe you are having a hard time at work and dropped the ball on a big project. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, think about what you learned from the experience. How can you express gratitude in this situation? It could be something like, “I am grateful for a second chance to prove myself at work.” Gratitude and mindset go hand in hand. If you train your mind to focus on the positive, being grateful will become automatic and you will notice that positivity will start to show up in every situation you encounter.

Gratitude Practice Prompts
Here are some prompts from The Chopra Center website to inspire a daily Gratitude Practice,

  1. One song I love is _________ because. . .
  2. I have had some wonderful teachers in my life. Currently, I’m grateful for. . .
  3. One simple pleasure that I value is. . .
  4. One of my most worthwhile purchases has been my. . .
  5. One of my greatest life lessons was. . .
  6. An artist or author whose body of work continually inspires me is. . .
  7. A skill I have that makes me special is. . .

Gratitude and mindset go hand in hand. If you train your mind to focus on the positive, being grateful will become automatic and you will notice that positivity will start to show up in every situation you encounter. There really is so much to be grateful for.

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