Establishing a Gratitude Practice

Change your outlook, change your life. Maybe you’ve heard this sentiment before, as an expression commonly used to portray our ability to control (or at-least shift) our perception of the world around us. And although some difficulties in our lives may be challenging to manage simply by adjusting our thinking, the truth is that a daily practice of gratitude has the power to lead to greater happiness, wellbeing, and capacity for empathy. Just take a look at the science: multiple studies have shown that consistent recognition of the things we’re grateful for helps us feel better about our lives and more optimistic about the future. 

Shifting our focus from what we lack to what we have isn’t easy in a world in which comparison abounds - we’re deeply connected to others through social media and opportunities to zero in on what we may not have are ever-present. Besides limiting our time on these platforms, something that can be incredibly freeing in our search for meaning, there are daily steps you can take to move towards cultivating an outlook of gratitude. 

Start and keep a daily gratitude journal 
A powerful shift in perspective is only achieved through consistency, and one of the best ways to do so is by keeping a gratitude journal. Although you may choose to apply this to your schedule in the way that works best for you, research has shown that writing down what you’re grateful for is most beneficial in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before you go to bed. This way, you’re primed to look at the day in a positive light, and can let go of everything that happened and fall asleep with the good in mind. We recommend reserving the morning for three things you’re grateful for in general and writing down three good things that happened during the day in the evening. Try to take a moment to connect with what you’re writing down and really feel the gratitude that you have. 

Send thank you notes and express gratitude to those you love
In a study completed by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers divided university fundraisers into two groups. One group made phone calls for alumni donations as normal, and the other group did so after receiving a talk from the director on her deep appreciation for their work. Those who received her expression of gratitude made 50% more fundraising calls than the other group. Whether you’re doing so within the realm of work or simply to a friend of family member, it’s clear that expressing gratitude to others has a transformative effect. Take the time to write a handwritten card or text a friend just to let them know how much they mean to you - chances are it will be more than well-received. 

Meditate daily
In the hustle of our day-to-day existence, it can be grounding to reserve a time to check in with the breath and with the body. The more in-tune we are with ourselves, the easier it is to recognize the good - even if it’s that’s the simple fact of being alive and able to experience all of the beauty the world has to offer.