How to Practice Gratitude: A Beginners Guide
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Gratitude is the way we can fully access life's joys
If you aren't familiar with the benefits of gratitude, I highly recommend you check out my previous article 10 Life Changing Benefits of Gratitude.
It's important to know why you are doing what you're doing!
If you are familiar with the benefits, let's get going.
How can you practice gratitude?
1. Gratitude journaling
Take at least 5 minutes every day and write about 1 – 3 things you are grateful for in as much detail as possible.
- Placement. Put your gratitude journal somewhere you can easily see and access. I recommend right next to your bed.
- Get specific. Don’t just write down that you are grateful for your mom. Write about what specifically she has done for you, what qualities you admire in her, etc.
- Experiment with timing. Pick either in the morning or before you go to bed to write. Write in the morning to create a positive mood and frame the day. Write at night to reduce stress and sleep better. Some benefit more from writing once a day, others benefit from once a week (to reduce gratitude fatigue). Test it out.
- Write about something different each time, or at least describe a different aspect of it.
- Use the language of gifts. What “gifts” have you received recently?
- Do it with a friend. If you can start this habit with a friend and share what you’ve written periodically, you are more likely to stick with it and you’ll enjoy more positive benefits.
- Make sure you are really experiencing the feeling of gratitude. Stay with the feeling for at least 10 - 20 seconds. Let it really sink in! Keep trying until the grateful thoughts become real emotions you can feel throughout your body. This is when you'll actually "rewire" your brain to become more grateful.
What to write about:
- To whom you are grateful. What did you receive from them?
- A mix of small and big things. Nature, your favorite song, your best friend.
- Surprises. What unexpected blessing did you experience today?
- People that have helped the people you love.
- Something positive from your life that will be ending soon.
- A painful situation that taught you something.
2. Gratitude letters, texts, emails
Expressing gratitude to someone has been shown to be more powerful than journaling.
Here are some suggestions:
- Texts or email:
Write a 2 minute text or email praising a new person each day for one week.
Watch the responses you get back. You'll be amazed :)
Write a letter of gratitude to an important person in your life, thanking them for what they have done for you and taught you.
Bonus: To achieve maximum benefits, deliver the letter in person, read it out loud and make eye contact. This has been shown in multiple studies to have serious positive life changing effects. Extra credit points for you!
3. Gratitude meditation
Writing is more helpful to organize thoughts but if you’re short on time meditating can also have powerful effects.
- Find a peaceful place. Find a corner in your room, a spot in your backyard, or on your patio.
- Pair it with another activity, like when you’re brushing your teeth. Especially if you're short on time.
- Get specific. Think about why exactly you’re grateful for what you’re thinking about. Visualize it in detail.
Experiment with journaling, meditating, sending texts, emails, or letters. Stick with one or find a mix that's right for you.
Keep practicing and you are sure to experience more happiness, better physical and emotional health, and stronger relationships.
If you want to learn more about how to practice gratitude I highly recommend the book by Robert Emmons, Gratitude Works.