Season for Giving Thanks: 13 Ways to Experience Gratitude

November 21, 2023
IONS Communications Team

With the Thanksgiving season upon us, it’s a beautiful time to take inventory of your gratitude levels. Do you look at the bright side of life, or do you focus on what’s missing? 

Science has shown that what might seem like a minor thing actually makes a remarkable difference in our overall wellbeing and happiness. 

An example is a study conducted by gratitude researchers Robert Emmons and Michael E McCullough at UC Berkley. They divided participants into three groups: one was asked to focus on the positive and journal about what they’re grateful for every week, the second to journal about what they’re unhappy with, and the third to remain neutral and focus neither on the good nor the bad. 

After 10 weeks, the participants in the gratitude group were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Somewhat surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer medical visits. 

Focusing on gratitude is probably the best holiday gift you can give to yourself and others. But how do you do it? In this article, we’ll provide some practical tips to implement before the end of the year for a happier life!

What are the benefits of gratitude?

Gratitude creates positive effects in nearly all areas of life. Physically, it boosts your immune system and lowers blood pressure. People who regularly experience gratitude often have better health habits. 

Mentally, it helps you focus on abundance over lack. Gratitude has also been shown to decrease depression, make you feel more optimistic, improve your love life, and help you deal with crises. It also enables you to feel more relaxed – something invaluable in our fast-paced society!

Science has shown that grateful people eat better, exercise more often, and avoid risky behavior. It can also speed up healing from physical ailments.

Robert Emmons, an internationally renowned expert on gratitude, suggests that gratitude helps amplify positive emotions because it helps us slow down and be more present. Presence enhances our quality of life: if we can’t appreciate the small moments, we can’t fully enjoy the big ones.

Gratitude also boosts resilience: appreciating even tiny moments of positivity helps us navigate trauma and better deal with difficult situations, such as disasters or illness. 

Want to know more? Read our article about the untapped power of gratitude

New daily habits for gratitude

1. Gratitude journal 

A gratitude journal is a great way to count your blessings and gear your mind toward more positivity. Every night, list the things you’re grateful for from the day. It can be anything from a delicious cup of coffee to quality time spent with family or winning the lottery. Bonus points for feeling the feelings of gratitude and abundance. 

2. Share 3 good things that happened during the day

At the dinner table, let everyone share 3 things they experienced during the day and that they’re grateful for. If you live alone, you can start a WhatsApp group where members share their contributions through text or voice message. 

3. Thank yourself for taking care of yourself 

Creating healthier habits, a kind inner voice, and allowing yourself to rest are forms of self-love. But we tend to forget to celebrate how far we’ve come. Each day, write down 3 ways you’ve started to take better care of yourself lately. Did you quit smoking? Prioritize 8 hours of sleep over scrolling your phone? Let go of a toxic relationship? Those are all things to cherish! 

4. Mindfulness meditation

Sometimes, we forget what a miracle it is to have a human body and physical senses. A mindfulness meditation where you connect to each sense and notice one thing you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch not only helps you feel more grateful for your body, but also calms the nervous system and connects you to the present moment. 

5. Prayers of Gratitude

Many spiritual practices and religions have gratitude prayers. If you adhere to a particular practice, explore what gratitude rituals or prayers you can adopt. This can also include saying grace, a short prayer or thankful phrase, before a friendsgiving meal.

Gratitude practices to adopt in the moment 

6. Enhance the good moments and Reframe the “bad” moments

Train yourself to be more present when you experience positive emotions. Notice your physical sensations and amplify those good feelings. When you feel upset, focus on 5 things you’re grateful for. This can help to quickly shift your mood. Facing adversity, practice looking for the silver lining. What’s the lesson or learning? How can you use that to avoid the same situation in the future, and help others do the same?

7. Visual reminders

The two biggest blocks against gratitude are forgetfulness and lack of awareness. Visual reminders can help us shift into gratitude each moment. Use a screen saver on your phone that evokes feelings of gratitude, and set reminders with affirmations that help you reconnect to a positive state of being.

How other people can help us feel more grateful 

8. Show appreciation for your partner or family

If you are in a long-term relationship, you may slip into taking your partner for granted. Regularly sharing what you’re grateful for in them creates a powerful vortex of intimacy and trust, and helps both of you anchor into gratitude.

9. Focus on helping others 

When we are in service to others, we feel more fulfilled. Focus on helping others can help you get out of stress and overthinking and help you appreciate life more. 

10. Thank someone mentally

If you feel too shy to express your gratitude for someone in person, send them a heartfelt “thank you” or loving kindness mentally. They may sense it! And you will reap the benefits of gratitude.

11. Send 3 messages of gratitude every week

Reallocate part of the time you use for social media or watching series to sending messages of gratitude or shouting out people who you appreciate. You will be surprised at how much better you feel!

Behavioral gratitude boosters

12. Monitor your language

Words are spells. Notice how you talk to yourself and others daily. Are you your inner critic or your own biggest supporter? Are your words encouraging and uplifting? 

13. Body language triggers 

Our physiology responds to changes in body language. To increase your gratitude, smile at yourself in the bathroom mirror in the morning! Slow down your breath and place your hands on your heart for little moments of reconnection throughout your day.

Gratitude transforms

Gratitude is simple, free, and presents a number of physical and emotional benefits. Commit to 1-3 of the above practices, implement them today, and see your life transform! Remember: we are all connected, so when you change, you also change the world for the better.

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