Practicing gratitude may seem like an odd concept. It sounds so simple; be grateful. But when life gets crazy and stressful it can be so easy to just focus on the negative. And sometimes, life just sucks and it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be grateful for at all. The act of practicing gratitude is something I first started doing about two years ago. At the time it was just something to make me feel better. I’ve been a crazy busy person basically since I came to college, and sometimes these responsibilities come with stress and frustration to the point that I just resent it all. I was walking through campus on one of these particularly bad days and it was fall (my favorite season). I remember internally appreciating how pretty the leaves looked and realizing how lucky I am to experience fall on Miami’s campus. That then gave me the idea to make a conscious effort to find things that I’m grateful for each and every day.
Since that day I’ve continued this practice. I actually have a journal now that I write in every night detailing what I’m grateful for that day. My life is still incredibly stressful at times, but this gratitude journal has really helped to remind me what a great life I have. It’s helped me to be mindful of how lucky and blessed I really am, even when my life is stressing me out to no end.
In fact, there’s actually science behind the act of practicing gratitude. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and more. I’ve definitely noticed this in my own life. I’ve always been a relatively optimistic person, but now I find even the smallest of things can calm me and center me simply because I acknowledge that I’m grateful for them.
For example, there’s a big tree on the street I live on that turns the prettiest orange and red in the fall. I see that tree every morning and consciously recognize that it’s a sight I’m grateful for, and it instantly makes my mood better. I often write in my journal how even though most of the things that I do in college stress me out, the very fact that I’m in college is something to be grateful for. The fact that my sorority or my part-time jobs are my biggest stressors really is something to be grateful for, and it helps to remind myself of that.
I’ve found that the more you’re grateful for “little” things, the better you’ll feel. I’m a big fan of Pinterest motivational quotes and have a picture in my room that says “someday you’ll realize the little things are the big things.” I think that’s completely true, and that shift in mindset has made me a happier, more positive person.
Sometimes days are hard and there might not be much that you feel grateful for. But even the smallest of things, like a sunset or laughing with your friend are good things to take note of. I strongly recommend practicing gratitude to anyone, regardless of whether you think you need to or not.