It’s Thanksgiving week! And a phrase we often hear this time of year is “being grateful.” But what is gratitude exactly? The dictionary definition is “the quality of being thankful”. And “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. Yet how many of us practice gratitude on a daily basis? Expressing gratitude is more than courtesy, manners, or being polite. It’s about showing your heartfelt appreciation. And did you know, people who regularly practice gratitude by taking the time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience a number of benefits? Benefits that include more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
How to Start a Gratitude Practice – Notice the Good
Start to notice and identify the things you are grateful for. Tune in to the small everyday details of your life and notice the good things you might sometimes take for granted. Set a goal of noting 3 things you are grateful for every single day. Nature. People. Community. Shelter. Creature comforts like a warm bed or a good meal. It’s amazing what you notice when you focus on feeling grateful.
You could also start a gratitude journal. Making a commitment to writing down good things each day makes it more likely that we will notice good things as they happen. As a result, you will begin practicing gratitude rituals Another example of a gratitude ritual is to say grace before a meal. Pausing in gratitude before eating doesn’t have to be religious. It’s a simple habit that helps us notice and appreciate the blessing of food on the table.
How Gratitude Affects Your Mental State
Did you know that gratitude can help you stay in the moment? Regardless of the circumstance? A gratitude practice can help you focus on being mindful. If mindfulness is something you struggle with, focusing on a gratitude practice can help! A gratitude practice can also shift your thinking! This may take time of dedicated gratitude practice. But the more you try to think a certain way, the more you begin to think that way. Even when you’re not trying to! We wouldn’t necessarily say practice makes perfect. But we would say that practice makes improvement.
How to Express Gratitude
Let’s start by showing your appreciation to someone who did something nice. Say: “It was really kind of you to…,”. Or “It really helped me out when you…,”. Even things like, “You did me a big favor when…,” and “Thank you for listening when…,”. Has someone taught you something recently? Or were they simply just there for you? Try, “I really appreciated it when you taught me…,” or “Thank you for being there when…”. If you’re someone who has a hard time talking to someone in the moment, you can always write them a note or letter.
You can also express gratitude by performing an act of kindness. Gratitude might inspire you to return a favor, or act with kindness or thoughtfulness. Perhaps you see a situation in which you can “pay it forward.” Hold the door open for the person behind you, even if it means waiting a little longer than you normally would. Do someone else’s chores without letting the person find out it was you. Notice how you feel afterward!
And finally, remember life is shorter than we expect it to be. Tell the people in your life how you feel and what they mean to you. You don’t have to be mushy or over-the-top. We all have our own style. But if you say what you feel in the right tone at the right moment, even a simple, “Mom, good dinner. Thanks!” means a lot.
Having a Gratitude Practice Makes You Happier
When you truly appreciate the people, things, and experiences of your everyday life, it’s hard not to smile and find joy in them. And by doing so, you may increase your appreciation of others.; Surprisingly, thinking of the positive aspects of people who you do not get along with really does help. It allows you to focus on their good qualities. And even more, it can increase your understanding of the mindset behind some of the actions or words they say that may not resonate with you.
True gratitude doesn’t leave you feeling like you owe other people something — after all, if you’ve done someone a favor, you probably don’t want the person to feel like you expect something back in return. It’s all about feeling good and creating a cycle of good.
Need Help Finding Gratitude?
Reversing the flow of negative thoughts is a difficult task, but it isn’t impossible. And it’s definitely easier when you have someone walking the path with you. If you feel you are struggling, know you aren’t alone, and we want to join you on your journey! Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you navigate your personal roadblocks. Remember, health is a cycle — but you get to determine the direction it goes!
Crystal Norcott received her Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Carlow University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She has been in the counseling profession for 10 years and has had a variety of clinical experiences. Her experiences include working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings including residential, school, community, and in the home. She has also worked with adults who may be experiencing a life event that they are struggling with, including but not limited to – addiction, depression, and anxiety.
Her counseling technique varies depending on the need and personality of the person, as there is no one technique that works for everyone. Don’t ever feel like you have to deal with life’s difficulties on your own.