As Thanksgiving approaches, it is that time of the year when people begin to reflect on what they’re thankful for. Gratitude, something that isn’t so prevalent in everyday life for most of us, is given more attention now than at any other time of the year. We reflect on what we have, who we have, and, most importantly, how we have the valuable things in our lives. However, we shouldn’t exclusively practice gratitude around the holidays — every day is worth giving thanks. Gratitude is important to keep in the back of our minds throughout our daily life because it keeps us humble and acts as a deterrent from taking the pleasures in our life for granted. For many, there is simply not enough time in the day to dedicate to giving thanks or, maybe, you just don’t know how to do it. Therefore, I have compiled a list of ways we can practice gratitude in small amounts throughout our everyday lives. Hopefully, these little exercises can provide us with a better perspective on life and encourage thankfulness every day.
At first, journaling can be quite tedious. You may not see the point in writing down your thoughts because, well, you’re already thinking about them. However, writing down what you’re thankful for forces you to even think about it at all. For instance, I try to take five minutes out of my day, usually before I go to bed, to make a short list of three things I am grateful for. Even if my list consists of seemingly unimportant things like the Chick-fil-a sandwich I had for lunch, I am still actively practicing gratitude. At the end of the day, I am grateful for my Chick-fil-a sandwich, not just because it was delicious, because it gave me the energy to do other things during the day that were more meaningful. It reminded me that I had enough money to buy the sandwich and friends to share the meal with. Journaling your gratitude is a thought-provoking exercise and takes about five minutes, so it can’t hurt to try it.
- thanking yourself first
While practicing gratitude seems inherently external, it doesn’t have to be. Of course, we are thankful for the people and things that add value to our lives, but we must also remember to be thankful for ourselves. Thank your body for its health and mobility. Thank your mind for acing that exam. Thank your personality for bringing such wonderful friends into your circle. I think that being thankful for yourself is like loving yourself. Just like it is harder to love others if you don’t love yourself first, it is also harder to be thankful for others when you don’t thank yourself.
- using grateful language
It is so easy to be negative. I often find myself making self-deprecating jokes, or I am just generally being less positive. Every day we say thank you, and it feels like we’re just going through the motions. Incorporating words into our everyday vocabulary that shows more active gratitude can make our words and intentions more meaningful. This is as simple as using statements like “I appreciate you for helping me with that” or “I am fortunate to have you,” instead of the classic “thanks.” Words are extremely important and meaningful. If we can use those words to express our gratitude in a deeper sense, it can deepen our relationships with those we are thankful for and showcase our ingenuity.
- using visual reminders
A lot of times, you don’t just think of things you’re grateful for out of nowhere. It often takes some sort of reminder of a person or thing for you to actively appreciate it. It can thus be helpful to surround yourself with visual reminders of the things and people you are grateful for. Some examples of this can be changing your phone’s lock screen to a picture of a loved one or putting some pictures of your friends and family on your desk. Using some visual reminders can provoke feelings of gratitude more frequently than before.