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Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude

Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to pause, sit down, and reflect on what we are thankful for. Every Thanksgiving, like many of you, my family has a tradition of going around the table to say what we’re grateful for. (Me? I’m most thankful when someone else does the cooking.) I know it’s a little cliché, but it’s a sweet ritual and I look forward to hearing what the boys come up with each year. It also reminds me that I should be practicing gratitude more often—not just when I’m shoveling another bite of stuffing into my mouth.

Because between diaper changes and shuttling the boys to school and sports practices, the days can feel like a blur. And I’m not exactly thinking,” I am so grateful for this moment.” No. I’m usually thinking, “Oh crap—I’m late, I suck at this mom thing, or what time exactly is too early for a glass of wine?”

Gratitude really is good for us, though. Research shows that it can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, boost our immune function and reduce our risk for depression. In a recent study, they even found that the simple act of writing gratitude letters—regardless of whether they’re sent—can even improve mental health by shifting our thoughts away from negative, toxic emotions.

It’s incredible that such a simple act can cause such a huge shift in attitude. It made me curious about other easy ways to weave gratitude into our daily lives, so I did a little digging and found these four science-backed tricks. Here’s to hoping I can turn them into habits that last long after Thanksgiving is over.

Keep a gratitude journal

Writing down a list of good events at the end of each day—and why they made us happy— lowers stress and makes us feel more calm, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. I’ve never been great at journaling, so I love that I stumbled across The Five-Minute Journal. Each page prompts you with simple questions like, “What would make today great?” and “I am grateful for…” in the morning, and then “3 amazing things that made today great” at night, with a couple of lines to fill in for each. It’s organized and makes the practice feel really manageable.

Say “thank you”

Another study of married couples found that regular “thank you’s” act as a relationship protector when arguments flare. Feeling appreciated and valued strengthens your bond. And it turns out the more you say it, the more ingrained it gets and the more often you’ll do it. I’ve also found that it makes it easier for me to focus on all the good things Jared is doing, rather than dwelling on the fact that he forgot to put the effing toilet seat down (again).

 

Be here now

Just 10 minutes of daily meditation can improve our mood and prevent “mind wandering” that can leads to anxiety, according to a 2017 study. Being “present” is an ongoing challenge for me, so I’m a big fan of the Headspace app. You can get the basics for free or pay a subscription fee for guided and non-guided meditation options. They even offer themed sessions on everything from focus and compassion to kids and sleep.

Give Back

Volunteering can improve our physical health, life satisfaction, happiness and self-esteem, according to research in BMC Public Health. Whether it’s school fundraisers or advocating for Out Youth, working with others to better our community always gives me a new perspective and makes me feel a renewed sense of gratitude.

So in this new spirit, THANK YOU all for reading, and I’d love to hear how you practice gratitude in the comments below. I appreciate you!

 
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8 Comments

  • Maya

    Love it

  • Priya

    Hey Gen, this was such a beautiful. While here we typical do not celebrate thanksgiving per say, its always a good time to show gratitude towards various things in life, right? I do wish I was organized or meticulous enough to maintain a journal, but will surely try to follow the other tips mentioned here.
    Honestly, I don’t do anything particular show how thankful and grateful I am for my life. Never gave it much thought.
    But yeah, I have always thought education to be incredibly important in life and have been quite glad to have got the chances to learn as much as I wanted to. Plus,I am a daughter of a teacher, so education and it’s importance was reinforced on me scince a very young age. This factor encouraged me to teach people who have not got the opportunity to go to school and learn like I did. Scince high school I have been visiting little kids who have not got the chance at schooling and have tried to teach them as much as I can. However, now as I have a full time job, I generally do not get adequate time to dedicate to teaching, and many a times personal life comes in the way as well. But I hope to manage all of these better the next year.
    Last but not the least, thank you so much Gen for starting this blog. I enjoy reading it a lot. Keep posting more and keep doing the wonderful work you do. I am really proud of the work you and Jared do for the community.

  • MJ

    Oh my! Such a great blog, Gen! Love it.
    Literally reading this has helped to feel relaxed. I’m totally going to try the tips you talked about. It’s wonderful to read about this kind of things. Sadly, in Mexico we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but every year I take my time to think about the things I’m thankful for.
    This year I’m thankful for finishing high school with good grades, getting into university at the first try, having so many more quality time with my family and friends, being able to give more to those who need it and so many other things.

  • Tracey

    Beautiful entry in your beautiful blog! I’m always thankful for being a mom, that my kids are safe, happy, and healthy. That we live in a great country, Canada 🇨🇦, and can enjoy the freedom so many men and women fought for. We always do the “I’m grateful for…” thing around the table! I’m going to try your idea for the five minute journal, as I’m also not very good at sticking to journaling. And I’m very thankful that I’ve finally got my husband trained to always put the seat down!! Lol 😂
    Love you Gen, hope you guys have the best Thanksgiving!!
    Tracey

  • Karen Graham

    I’ve used the gratitude notebook a few times in the past, but not lately. It’s definitely a great way to think about the good things rather than dwell on annoyances that might have happened that day. It’s funny how the negative tends to stay with us, even if we’ve had a day full of great things. I might use this as a reminder to go back to the gratitude notebook! Volunteering is also amazing. I’ve done a bit of volunteering while travelling and it always gave me a great perspective on the place I was visiting (that you don’t always get when you just rush through a place). I’m also now volunteering at IMAlive, through a Random Acts sponsorship, and it is a wonderful thing to do. To be honest, I’ve gotten as much out of it as anyone I might’ve helped in the process. Thanks for another great article Gen. I always enjoy reading your blog, even if I don’t always comment <3
    PS: Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! We don't have Thanksgiving in Australia, but I'm always grateful for my family & friends!

  • Adrienne Rogerson

    I give thanks every day through prayer. I have so much to be thankful for. Every night before I go to sleep, I reflect upon my day and am just happy that I get to have such a crazy, full life filled with good people and opportunities. I’m thankful for the good and the bad because it shapes who I am and creates this desire to do more. To be better the next day. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  • michaela

    Love this gen, thank you. I love reading your blogs they have helped me so much. We dont have thanksgiving in England but I am a big believer in gratitude. I make a point of choosing my students and telling them I appreciate them or their resilence this week was fantastic. I teach Drama so you can imagine the talent I have in my studio 🎭🙌 I make it my mission of showing my family through cards, flowers, a new perfume etc that I am grateful to have them in my life!
    You do such a great job gen and if you read these comments, not sure if you do as not seen any posts, I dont know you personally and yet I feel I do. I am a good judge of character you are a friendly, caring, reflective, compassionate beautiful lady and clearly you rock the mama thang because your kids radiate love. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family 🙏❄🎄🍽🍁🍂

  • lesdeuxcatastrophes

    Thank YOU for teminding us! You’re speaking my mind! It really is an effort to say “thank you“ in moments of anger or desperation. But I am a positive thinking person and it always helped me to get through a crisis to think of all the wonderful things that happen(ed) to me. It makes you realize that the positive outruns the negative.
    I list the at least 3 good things happening to me daily for a few years now and I am volunteering at the college cafeteria (between others). And when I feel sick, I compare the number of body parts aching to those that are not.;) Always makes me feel better instantly.

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