Practice Gratitude DailyIt sounds almost platitudinous to say that we should all be more grateful, yet the daily practice of gratitude is more than an empty cliché. Being thankful, as an active state of mind, can have far-flung effects on our mental health, all of them positive. When we make ourselves grateful, it helps us to mitigate anxiety, stress, and internalized negativity; it allows us to be more open to the good things in this world. For those in recovery, it can be an invaluable tool. Practicing gratitude can also be surprisingly easy. Essentially, it boils down to making a mental record of all the things we have to be glad for. Actually carving out spare moments to work gratitude into our day-to-day living is where things get a little more challenging—yes, more difficult, but not impossible. In this month, which is focused on thankfulness, we could all stand to work on our gratitude skills. Below are some practical ways to do exactly that, though we invite you to brainstorm some strategies of your own.
Make Thankfulness a Daily PracticeSome of our suggestions include:
- One tried and true method for active gratitude is to keep a journal, writing in it each day to list some things you are thankful for. This works well for many people, but we will also suggest a twist on this classic approach. Try keeping a gratitude calendar, instead; write down one thing you are thankful for every day, and when the new year starts, go back to the beginning of your calendar and add new entries for each day. Over time you will create a layered timeline of your daily gratitude practice.
- Use important days—anniversaries, birthdays, etc.— as key opportunities to meditate on the things you are thankful for. Take some time on these milestones to reflect on the previous year, and perhaps write a list of things you are thankful for. Also try writing out predictions for the good things that will come in the next year.
- You are probably familiar with the practice of saying grace at mealtimes. A different approach to this—and one that is perfectly welcoming even to the non-religious—is to go around the table and offer something you are thankful for at each meal. Get your family members and your friends—whoever you share the table with—involved in this process.
- Use difficulties and hardships as opportunities for gratitude. Instead of beating yourself up over mistakes you have made, encourage yourself to think instead about lessons you have learned, or about those “blessings in disguise” that you might experience through troubled times.
- Look for opportunities to say thank you to actual people in your life—and they don’t necessarily have to be people you know well. Say thank you to the people who serve you, the people who often blend into the background of your day. Offer thanks to your Uber driver, to the barista who makes your coffee, to the people who hold doors open for you… anyone and everyone you have the opportunity to thank, do!
- Another option is to thank the people who have been influential in your past—former teachers, coaches, bosses, mentors, co-workers, or friends. Reconnect with them by writing them a letter and simply expressing the gratitude you have for them, and for their influence in your life.