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Practising Gratitude – Why, How, and When?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

The word gratitude comes from the Latin word ‘gratia’, meaning grace, thanks, or gratefulness. Practising gratitude encompasses all of these meanings, as we express a thankful appreciation for what is valuable and meaningful to us. But why practise it daily? How can gratitude positively impact our well-being? And when can you express gratitude in your day-to-day life? 

Sometimes, we all lack contentment with day-to-day life or generally feel a bit low. By feeding this negativity with further spiralling thoughts, we become blind to happy moments in the day, brushing over positive achievements, and instead focusing on what went wrong. This leaves us ignorant of the positive aspects of our lives. Gratitude, I have found, allows me to climb out of this pit of despair and cast light on the positive aspects of my life. It helps me to focus on the present moment.

“I will never have this version of me again, let me slow down and be with her ~ always evolving.”

– Rupi Kaur 

Being grateful reminds me to appreciate every experience, every emotion, and the people in my life. In doing so, I realise how a day that may seem overwhelmingly negative on the surface, is in fact laced with goodness and happiness, otherwise inconspicuous to the pessimistic mind. 

With gratitude, I acknowledge my part in the good in my life, but also place the source of this goodness outside my control. In doing so, being grateful allows me to be thankful for not only myself but connects me to something larger than myself as an individual – whether that be other people, nature, or a higher power.  

“Even in the chaos of everyday life, moments of gratitude remind us to hold on to the good things.”

– Brit Morin 

The positive impacts of gratitude can be seen not only through personal experiences but also by scientific evidence. Practising gratitude has been found to have benefits for both the brain and the body, with research showing: 

  • Enhanced production of dopamine and serotonin – the neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. 
  • Reduced fear and anxiety by regulating stress hormones. 
  • Improved quality of sleep. 
  • Improved blood pressure. 

Therefore, by being grateful, we can enhance our overall happiness and well-being; these positive impacts only intensify over time with continually practising gratitude every day. Personally, I express gratitude in a journal, which I write in every morning and evening. 

I start by writing ‘I am grateful for…’ and create a list with a minimum of 5 bullet points as a starting point. On the days when I need an extra boost of positivity, writing 5 things I am grateful for forces me to look for the good, even if I feel overwhelmed by negative emotions. Here are some prompts to consider things you’re grateful for: 

  • An interaction with someone 
  • A learning experience 
  • Personal attributes 
  • An achievement 
  • A feeling or emotion 

After creating my list, I read them back to myself, often alongside a deep breathing exercise. This allows me to fully absorb what I am grateful for, and actually feel grateful, rather than just going through the motions of writing it down. 

It is important to remember that gratitude can be expressed in all manner of ways. You can express it verbally, speak it aloud to yourself in the mirror, tell it to another person, or write it down. There is no set way, whatever helps you feel the gratitude more deeply.

Expressing gratitude doesn’t even need to be a routine exercise. It can be practised throughout the day, when you notice feelings, people, or experiences that you’re grateful for. To intertwine gratitude into my way of thinking, I sometimes use these journaling prompts: 

  • Write about your ideal day
  • Do less of… 
  • Do more of… 
  • Things I find beautiful 
  • Five things that make me smile

The act of gratitude in itself is not inherently healing or revolutionary but provides us with the tools to live a happy and fulfilling life. As we appreciate more of what we have, rather than focusing on what we lack, we can live presently and contently, positively impacting our well-being and mental health.  

A simple, fun, and easy activity, practising gratitude can be easily romanticised by writing in a cute journal which you can decorate (I am partial to fun sticker packs)! So why not pop down to your local Waterstones or scour the internet for the perfect journal, and start your gratitude journey?  

“Look around you. Appreciate what you have. Nothing will be the same in a year.”

– Isaiah John 

Ellie Hughes is a writer at the Her Campus at King's Chapter covering the Wellness verticals on the site. Her writing covers areas such as mental and physical health, sex and relationships and general wellbeing advice to make you feel accepted, confident, and supported throughout your university journey. Although she is only a first-year student, her articles provide an insight into the daily anxieties and stresses of university life and how to combat these in healthy ways. Whether you’re just starting off or ending your adventure at King’s, Ellie’s articles will provide comfort, advice and support on how to stay mentally and physically healthy during a time of such change and uncertainty. Ellie is a first-year English student at King’s College London after studying English Literature, Maths and Product Design at A-Level. Having studied such a diverse range of subjects, she has an acute ability in understanding issues from various angles which is transferred into her perceptive advice regarding wellness in her articles. Although she hasn’t written professionally before, having studied English Literature at the highest level throughout her education, she displays confidence and eloquence in her writing, particularly when discussing gender, femininity and sexuality which she based her coursework on. Her independent studies centred around the use of sex and sensuality in exploring traditional gender roles; her research into feminist theory and the misrepresentation of women within literature is carried into her articles as explores the power of femininity and our sexuality and how to embrace that. Beyond Her Campus, Ellie enjoys buying overpriced oat chai lattes from cute coffee shops, haunting bookstores, socialising with friends, rewatching her staple TV series (Gossip Girl of course) and exploring London with her boyfriend. She loves going out for the day, experiencing new things, and eating yummy food (which she can’t afford) but will happily trade clubbing for a cosy night in watching Harry Potter.