You can’t walk in many stores without finding fall decor, much of it with words like “grateful”, “blessed”, or “thankful.” With Thanksgiving a little over a month away, it truly is the season of gratitude in America. I’m not sure if pillows or wreaths or wood decorations can help cultivate a sense of gratitude but I am confident about one thing that will help you enhance your mood and feel better about daily life. It’s called a gratitude practice, or mindfully expressing gratitude.
You may have heard about this idea as it is becoming more mainstream and present in our culture. There are numerous studies that point to the positive impact of a gratitude practice and how one can enhance our feelings, attitudes, and outlook. In one study, participants who were asked to document things for which they are grateful found that these participants experienced feeling better about their lives in general, were more optimistic about the coming week, and felt more connected with others (Duckworth Steen, and Seligman, 2005). “Grateful thinking fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations, so that people can extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from their circumstances” (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky, 2006). If we can obtain the maximum satisfaction out of life by expressing gratitude, why aren’t we doing it?!
You may be feeling excited about how this concept could enhance your life and well-being but perhaps intimidated by the idea of a “practice.” I like using the word practice simply because it implies something that we are always working on and improving. You could call it a gratitude exercise or expressing thankful feelings or simply keeping a gratitude journal.
A while back, I shared my own gratitude practice on Instagram and was really surprised with the feedback I received. Some people have their own practice, others wondered how I started mine, and others asked about the specifics of mine.
My gratitude practice is really simple and that helps me stick with it (most of the time). I have a very small notebook that I keep in the top drawer of my desk or sitting on top of my planner. I write the date on the top of a new page and enter 2-4 things each day. I try to keep each item new and fresh, mostly to challenge myself and not get into a rut of being thankful for my dog everyday. While I am very grateful for her, I find this forces me to think a little more deeply into the world around me and the events of my day.
The research is pretty clear. In order to be happy and feel more positive, cultivating a sense of gratitude, enjoyment, and fulfillment through focused exercises or interventions really works. How do you nurture happiness and positivity in your own life?
Duckworth, AL, Steen, TA, and Seligman, ME. Positive Psychology in Clinical Practice. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2005. 1:629–51.
Sheldon, K.M., Lyubomirsky, S. How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing the best possible selves. The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2006. 1:73-82.
More information on gratitude
31 Gratitude Exercises that will Boost your Happiness (also available as a PDF) by Courtney Ackerman and Mike Oppland on Positive Psychology
The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life) by Derrick Carpenter on Happify Daily
Gratitude Practice Explained by Robin Stern and Robert Emmons on Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence