Learning how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude is essential to living a more joyful and abundant life!
One lesson that has always stuck with me is — how can you ever receive more if you don’t appreciate what you have now?
Our world moves at a pace faster than ever before. We are constantly striving, moving, doing and going.
We often forget to take stock of what’s truly important!
We complain about having too little and then when we do, it’s not enough.
As a mum, it’s easy to lose track when you are juggling a million different balls.
Consciously practicing gratitude will enable you to appreciate everything in your life at this very moment.
In this article, I look at what gratitude is, the benefits thereof and 11 ways you can practice it within your day.
What is Gratitude?
Being grateful is about feeling the emotion of appreciation for what you have in your life. It’s about recognising the value of what surrounds you, separate to monetary worth.
When you can learn to focus on the things that make you feel alive, fulfilled and happy, you will naturally feel more positive.
As Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, explains:
“We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people — or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset — gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
To have gratitude means noticing the beauty in the seemingly small things that surround you in the mundanity of life.
Or appreciating what you do have even when it seems like there’s nothing to appreciate because there always is.
It has the power to eradicate negative emotions and magnify the positive ones.
Gratitude can move us from the mindset of lack, limitation and fear, into expansion, happiness and love.
What are the Benefits of Gratitude?
The benefits of gratitude are endless, and once you understand just how great the effect of it can have on your wellbeing, you will want to practice it every day.
In many scientific studies, including research by Robert Emmons, they found that people who practice gratitude consciously and consistently, experience a much greater state of physical health and emotional well-being than those who don’t.
These benefits include:
- Improves physical health – studies have shown gratitude to strengthen the immune system, reduce symptoms of illness, help lower blood pressure and be less troubled by aches and pains. It will encourage you to exercise more and look after your health. It also helps you to sleep better and longer, and feel more refreshed upon waking.
- Improves psychological health and well-being – having a gratitude practice immediately creates higher levels of positive emotions such as feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, inspiration, hope, love etc. It’s also seen to increase happiness and fulfilment in life and reduce anxiety and depression.
- Gratitude strengthens social connections – it makes your relationship with others stronger. It brings you closer and makes you feel more connected to your loved ones. It helps you to feel less lonely and isolated, which in turn makes you more outgoing. You become more forgiving and compassionate, and it will make you want to give and help more, whether it’s a neighbour or a charity.
11 of My Favourite Gratitude Exercises and Activities
Create a habit out of being grateful by taking up a consistent daily practice. Choose one or more that you like and do it every day!
These exercises and activities are also great to do on your own or with your kids. Encouraging your kids to have some sort of gratitude practice is powerful for their development and it’s a great way to spend time together.
1. Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, and will immediately bring more joy into your life.
Choose a time in the day, either the morning or in the evening before you sleep, to write down 3-10 things you are grateful for.
At first, it may seem difficult, but as you do it more, this list will begin to naturally flow out of you. By doing this we learn to find joy in the everyday experience, and not take anything for granted.
You don’t have to write down big momentous events — like getting a job or moving — it can be as simple as going for a walk with a loved one, or cuddles with your child in the morning.
Before you write out your gratitude list, take a moment to observe how you feel, and then take note of what you feel afterwards, consciously relishing in those positive feelings.
A Gratitude Trick That Marie Forleo Learned from Robert Emmons
2. Gratitude Jar
This is as simple as it sounds and a great exercise to do with the kids.
All you need is a jar and you could get the kids to decorate it in any way they like.
During the day think of at least three things that you are grateful for. It can be something as simple as watching a movie with your kids, or as grand as the love you have for them. Write down what you are grateful for on little slips of paper and fill the jar—do this every day.
Over time, your jar will fill up and you will realise that you have plenty of reasons to be thankful for what you have.
The jar is also great for when you may be feeling down, take a look at a few notes to remind yourself of what’s good in your life.
3. Gratitude Object
The objective here is to find an object that you can use as a symbol of gratitude, so that every time you see it, it can remind you to be grateful.
This could be a little stone, shell or rock, or maybe even a piece of jewellery. You must be able to keep it with you during your day.
This can also serve as a mini-mindfulness moment in your day, anchoring you into the present moment.
4. Gratitude Tree
This is such a fun activity to do with the kids and it’s great for adults who want to connect to their inner child and sense of playfulness.
Watch the video below to see how to do it.
5. Gratitude Letter
This is such a powerful way to show appreciation to someone who has impacted your life in some way.
We’re quite au fait with thanking someone verbally, but there’s a certain magic when you write out your gratefulness.
It has the ability to help not only you feel it in a much deeper way, but also the person you are giving it to.
6. Gratitude Affirmations
Affirmations are powerful in how they can make you feel differently about something and when this happens you start to think and believe in new, constructive ways.
This then leads to different actions and thus more positive experiences that occur naturally in your life.
Affirmations can bring us closer to what we want to feel, even if we don’t yet fully believe it to be true.
When you repeat an affirmation over and over it has the ability to reprogram your subconscious, therefore cultivating a new “truth”.
You can create your own gratitude affirmations, or look up ones that resonate with you.
Write them down on sticky notes, or anywhere around the house (I keep mine on the fridge and my bathroom mirror) where you will constantly see them and be reminded.
Here are a few to get you started:
- I am learning to be grateful for what I have while being excited for what has yet to come.
- I am grateful now, and that is keeping the door open for more abundance.
- My thanksgiving is eternal; it survives every obstacle because I am willing to keep it alive.
- I fully accept the joy that wants to rise in my life, and I accept it now in gratitude.
7. Smile Meditation
The very simple act of smiling has the power to instantly shift your mood make you feel happier and more grateful.
Studies have shown that smiling can actually shift the way you feel, regardless of why you’re smiling.
Smiling sends a message to your brain, which triggers and releases feel-good endorphins throughout your body.
Smile anytime during the day for that feel-good boost or take some time to sit in silence and just smile observing how doing this makes you feel.
8. Gratitude Meditation
Gratitude meditations are a double-whammy for your well-being. You are performing two of the most impactful happiness practices at the same time.
A gratitude meditation is different from your more common meditations in that you are not just focusing on your breath with the intention of creating space between the thoughts.
Rather, you are visualizing all the things in your life that you are grateful for.
Make sure you give each person or item the focus it deserves. Take time to go through all the people, places, experiences or things you are grateful for.
You can also simplify things by focusing on things that are often taken for granted: the ability to breathe, hands to touch, eyes to see, legs to walk and run, etc.
9. Give Back
Giving back to those less fortunate is one of the biggest ways you can cultivate more gratitude in your life.
I’ve found that doing this shines a light on things I may take for granted and it really shows me how blessed my life is.
I suggest finding a community project you’re passionate about, spend time at a charity or NGO, or maybe even go to the beach and pick up rubbish/feed the homeless.
Find something that really calls you and notice how when you help with your highest intention you will naturally feel good about yourself and your life.
This is another great activity to do with the kids or on your own. It’s similar to the gratitude journal except you can either take pictures of things you are grateful for over a period of time or go through previous pictures.
This provides you with a great opportunity to really visualise your gratitude. Try taking a picture of one thing you are grateful for every day for a week. Observe how you feel. Take a look back at the pictures every week.
These don’t have to be big grand things to be grateful for. It could be the trees you saw on a walk or the lunch you had with a friend.
After about a month of doing this, put all your pictures together in a gratitude collage. This is something that you can look at every day and be reminded of how many blessings you have in your life.
11. Steph Pennock’s White Bean Exercise for Appreciation
The following gratitude exercise was invented by Seph Fontane Pennock. For this exercise you’re going to need:
- A can of white beans
- A can opener
- A spoon
Most of us are able to buy a can of white beans without blinking an eye, never mind the rest of the food we are fortunate enough to eat on a daily basis.
This exercise is about inviting yourself to have a can of beans as a meal for dinner. Literally nothing else that night, only the beans.
No warming them up, mixing in other ingredients or serving them in a nice bowl. If you do this, it beats the whole purpose of the exercise.
All you do is open the can, grab a spoon, gives thanks for what you’re about to eat and dig right in.
The purpose of doing this gratitude exercise is to help us realise and appreciate how much we actually have, especially when it comes to food.
We are able to eat whatever we want when we want it and it’s easy to take this for granted. So sometimes having that gentle reminder can be a good way to humble ourselves.
Observe your thoughts while eating the beans. Do you find yourself wishing for something else or can you be satisfied with the food you have to eat in this moment?
Give this a go once a week or once a month if you can.
The benefits of doing this can:
- Make you a more mindful eater
- Appreciate all the things you get to eat on a daily basis
- Shows you how little we require in order to satisfy our basic human needs
- Allows you to enjoy the ritual and experience of positive emotions while eating the beans
Ready to Cultivate a Gratitude Practice?
The proof is in the pudding, so eat more pudding!
Gratitude has the power to brighten your day and the magic to create more good things.
Being consistent with practising gratitude may take some time, but once it becomes a habit, you won’t want to stop reaping the benefits.
I truly hope you enjoyed learning about how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and find it a useful resource in making your day shine.
What are you most grateful for in your life?
Drop me a comment below and start your gratitude practice right this moment!
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