Even the most uncivilized members of society will say “thank you” to a stranger who holds a door open for them or an Uber driver before getting out. However, there is a significant distinction between a casual, automatic “thank you” and genuine gratitude.
Real gratitude is a strong sense of appreciation that, when felt, nurtured, shared, and acknowledged, may have a significant positive impact on your life, including positive health effects.
You’ve probably heard rumblings about gratitude expression, gratitude journals, and other topics. But what does expressing thanks actually entail? Below, mental health experts define gratitude in detail and provide instructions on how to practice it.
GRATITUDE is defined as an attitude of appreciation or thankfulness in Gratitude is defined . According to Rebecca Phillips, M.S., L.P.C., a licensed professional counselor with Mend Modern Therapy in Texas, it is actually even easier than that. The essence of thankfulness, according to Phillips, is acknowledgment. “When you can stop and acknowledge what you’re feeling, you can appreciate the wonderful,” she adds. The key to feeling thankfulness, according to her, is to recognize when something is excellent.
Positivity that is harmful is not gratitude. Actually, the reverse is true. According to Phillips, toxic positivity is the act of ignoring and invalidating negative emotions with untrue encouragements (instead of empathy and real caring). She claims that being grateful does not necessitate distorting reality or your ideas to the point of denial. Recognizing the good rather than dismissing the unpleasant is the basic tenet of thankfulness.
WHY SHOULD WE PRACTICE GRATITUDE? If feeling grateful is a state of mind, then doing gratefully is an action. According to professional stress management coach Stephen Light , practicing appreciation is growing thankfulness in your life through a combination of healthy routines, coping methods, and time management. To put it briefly, the goal is to make people’s lives a little bit more enjoyable.
For the record, everyone may practice appreciation, according to Light. Anyone who wants to engage in and practice gratitude has the capacity to learn how to incorporate it into their daily lives.
WHAT GOOD IS PRACTICAL GRATITUDE? To fully comprehend the advantages of thankfulness practice in real life, you’ll need some background information. According to Phillips, “from an evolutionary standpoint, the human brain is wired to seek safety.” You must be acutely aware of any instances of peril or darkness in order to do this. This protected people against predators and other dangers in ancient times, but in contemporary society, “this safety-seeking response causes you to focus significantly more on the negatives than advantages,” the author claims. This is referred to as the “negativity bias.”
According to her, this viewpoint can have an impact on not only your day but also the rest of your life, making everything you do feel dreadful. According to Phillips, cultivating thankfulness is the remedy for this negativity bias. A gratitude practice, according to her, “helps you counteract the tendency to concentrate on the problems with a reminder to concentrate on the positives.” You may be able to see your life more realistically as a result of this.
It should come as no surprise that this tendency to emphasize the good can enhance mental health, claims Phillips. In fact, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal Of Happiness Studies , practicing thankfulness can aid in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and despair.
According to celebrity holistic health expert and reiki master Serena Poon , “practicing thankfulness can assist the brain transmit healing, regenerating instructions to the cells in our body.” According to her, changing what the brain perceives can have an impact on everything from gut health to hormone health and beyond. The brain’s function is to analyze the environment around you and use that information to send messages to your gut, immune system, hormones, and other organs.
She continues, “Other studies demonstrate that practicing gratitude can improve sleep quality can lead to more energy, which in turn, enables you to be more focused, energetic, and have more clarity in your daily life. Additionally, she adds, “practicing gratitude can also increase your social interactions with others, fostering greater compassion, community, and emotional and psychological resilience” by helping you notice the positive aspects of things and people.
1. USE IT TO BEGIN AND END YOUR DAY. A simple first step in learning to express gratitude? Do it right now. According to Poon, “starting the day with a gratitude practice can significantly improve your life.” That’s a huge assertion, but try to suspend your disbelief for a few days and begin each morning with a quick exercise in appreciation. She claims that this technique can change your energy to one of love, joy, and abundance.
If you consider yourself to be a writer at heart, she advises writing down three to five things you have to be thankful for when the sun rises. But if you’re a painter, you might decide to dunk your brush in water. Another choice is to offer a morning prayer. The Best Gratitude Journals For Finding Joy in the Little Things (See More)
Poon advises practicing appreciation before bed as well. Ending your date with a gratitude list or other thankfulness exercise, advises the author, “will change your energy and your thinking into a place of love and a space to accept,” and may even carry over into your dreams.
2. START JOURNALING YOUR GRATITUDE. Try keeping a thankfulness diary to record the things for which you are grateful.
Gratitude journaling, which has become popularized by self-help experts, influencers, and celebrities alike, involves noting something you are grateful for each day, according to Phillips. This exercise “gives you something to look back on,” says Light, which has the extra benefit of letting you track your own improvement through time. It also adds a little happiness and hopefulness to your daily agenda. (
Although you can keep a thankfulness journal in any journal, Phillip suggests that occasionally treating yourself to a new notebook and pen set can make all the difference. Therefore, “buy yourself a great diary that you would like to carry around with you and write and purchase some good pens that actually make you want to write,” if you are able to. (Alternatively, use a guided diary to receive coaching on how to cultivate thankfulness.) then apply them. (Don’t like writing in journals? Try a run of appreciation instead.)
3. EXPRESS GRATITUDE! It’s crucial to express your gratitude on your own schedule, in fact. But cultivating thankfulness requires more than simply self-awareness and reflection. Poon advises that you should express your gratitude to others when they have done anything for you or when you are appreciative of their assistance. (On that subject, you ought to educate yourself on the five different love languages.)
It’s crucial to appreciate how your community members assist you, she says, because it’s in everyone’s nature to want to help others. Saying “thank you” might serve as recognition. For instance:
Just wanted to say thanks for making my coffee so frequently. I genuinely admire how much consideration you put into this work. I appreciate you driving so carefully. As you pick up your next passenger, I wish you a safe journey. Hey! Just wanted to send you a quick text to let you know how much I value having you in my life. You make my days so much better. Or, you may express your value to them in some other way.
You attending my office holiday party as my plus one meant a lot to me. So as a small mark of my appreciation, I sent you this. Today, check your mail! I sent you some (perishable!) food as a token of my appreciation for all of your hard work. She claims that not only can this result in a positive feedback loop where people are motivated to continue doing (or becoming) the things you are grateful for. However, it also fosters an atmosphere of thankfulness in your relationship, making your partner more inclined to mention the things you do for which they are grateful as well. A good deal, huh? (Learn more here: Gratitude Mistakes You Might Be Making)
4. LOOK INWARD WITH GRATITUDE. Get ready for some rough love. Running on empty will make you bitter and worn out, says Poon, so serving others requires that you first feed yourself. (Read: What Happened When I Made Self-Care a Priority for the Week.)
According to her, cultivating thankfulness for yourself can aid in avoiding those unpleasant sleepy feelings. Therefore, when practicing thankfulness, remember to express your gratitude to yourself for the results of your labor.
That can entail thanking your body for supporting you during your workout in the car after you leave yoga or CrossFit. That can entail treating yourself to the recuperation techniques that enable you to feel your healthiest. That can entail seeking treatment because it resembles a hug from oneself.
Alternatively, according to Pool, that might seem as simple journaling on the following thankfulness journaling prompt: What accomplishments of yours can you be proud of? (PS: Here are 75 additional journaling questions.)