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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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28 Comments

  • Ashton Wright

    Every year on my birthday I make a list of all the things I’m grateful for happening in the past year. Also, I make sure to always carve time out of my day for something that’s just for me so I always have something to be grateful for at the end of the day, even if the rest of the day was crap.

  • Krishna S

    I just want to say that you are a true inspirer. I just love your posts . You write with extreme love and sincerity that I just cannot leave without giving a reply .Thank you for all the lovely posts. I just wish you , Jared and your whole family all the blessings.May god bless you. Just keep writing

  • 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.

  • Charlie

    Hi, while I celebrate thanksgiving in October (yay Canada), I agree that it is an important time to take a step back and reevaluate one’s life. This year I hosted ten people for a plant based feast and realized how stressed I was about having people over. Often, the need to keep everyone happy around these holidays that are originally made to celebrate peace and the life we lead collectively tarnishes the actual holiday itself. Do you have any ways to stay down to earth when time is limited!

    I love your blog, I find it incredibly inspiring!
    Thank you!

  • 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

  • Susan Randall

    This is really lovely & thought provoking thank you.
    It made me think of something I used to do with my daughter when she was small. She was terrible at going to sleep on her own, right up to age 9 or 10. So one technique i used was to focus on something that she loved – maybe ponies or dolphins or castles – & something we’d done during the day. I would talk to her in bed & the key was to focus on her being part of a an activity, e.g. grooming a pony & the tiny details of what she woild imagine herself doing. What the horse feels like under her hands, the difference in texture between its body, ears & mane. The smell of it. Her feelings. I found that this intense focus relaxed her & aided her falling asleep but we also found that we talked about how thankful we were for what we’d been able to experience during the day. I called them our wishfuls & it was a precious time for us.

  • Alexa

    Beautiful words. Question though: What does the end part about TK mean? I was a little confused by what that meant! Thanks for all you do though, and have a wonderful holiday!

  • Enna

    Wow your words are inspiring ?

  • 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 ?❄????

  • Margaretha

    Thank you, Gen, for this wonderful reminder! And in just the right moment, too. I’ve tried to shift my focus to the sweet little things that happen daily, just to remind myself how beautiful and miraculous life, even everyday life, actually is. I have this little box in Aloha-themed design (I love Hawaii and the Hawaiian perspective on things). Whenever a little thing happens, I write it down on a colored piece of paper, like a beautiful sight, a enlightening encounter, a successful endeavor in kitchen, art or craft, an epiphany, all moments that made me truly happy or spoke to me, and put it in the Aloha box. I collect those happy thoughts all year long. On New Year’s Eve, I put all of these colorful notes in a glass jar – and realize how full of happy moments even a difficult year can be! Everytime I need a reminder of how good life actually is, I just look at my collection of jars full with colorful moments or take out and read a few, and feel stronger, more hopeful and confident again. I love filling the Aloha box. Aloha to you, too. ??

  • Monica

    I love the idea of a gratitude journal. I did something similar years ago to help me sleep, where I’d just pour out all my emotions and feelings onto the page, a brain dump of sorts. But by noting all that I have to be thankful for instead, that’s a positive thing I can later re-read and feel thankful for again. Thank you for the wonderful idea!

    Here’s wishing you and your beautiful family a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

  • Candace Jackson

    Thanks for the reminder, Gen! I used to keep a journal in which I would keep a meticulous record of things I prayed for, things that frustrated me, and things I was perfectly content with. One huge benefit of this was that I myself got to witness in real time how it affected my soul and mind when either my heart’s desire came to pass or it didn’t. I learned so much about the true intents and state of my heart, and what I was made of. I turned out to be more on the hollow, shallow side that wanted instant gratification for the sole purpose of self-serving benefits. The good thing is I was able to work with a mentor in order to change from the inside so that I could desire different things (i.e. selfless pursuits, like serving in a children’s hospital, a nursing home in a poor area of town, feeding the homeless, exactly how you talked about serving Out Youth). And once my desires began to change, the things for which I was grateful quickly came into view. That was about 15 years ago. I’m slipping back into my old habits again now, so I feel like you’ve just challenged me to rekindle the flame I had for service to others that I had so long ago. Time to get back to it! Thanks, Gen! And Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Megan Check

    I like that you do research and incorporate it into your blogs. I also blog about about natural pet health, how it relates to our own health and simple things like this post although I am currently in the middle of revamping my blog so it is, at the moment, just on facebook. I work with wild horses and a lot of rescue animals. I also happen to be disabled so I had to learn to adapt in order to continue to do what interests me. Unfortunately I face a lot of bullying from people. The horse world is full of critics, but when you are different they are much crueler. I was having a lot of trouble with this and had to take a break. I reaized I was apologizing for myself all the time when it wasn’t necessary. To some degree yes, people around me have to be willing to compromise because I am not able to be flexible or I could end up really sick. I came across an article that suggested changing the words we use to change the way we think. Very similar to what you are saying in your blog. Instead of saying “I’m sorry” all the time, say “Thank you for your patience…” or something along that line. When you aren’t constantly unnecessarily apologizing for yourself then you don’t have all this negativity surrounding you. I thought I would mention it because it is very close to what you were talking about. This is a lovely blog. Thank you.

  • 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.

  • Sophie

    You sound just like my mother haha! Except when she is yelling about the untidiness of the bathroom, it’s usually directed towards me. Good luck for when they enter high school, be ready for a rollercoaster of emotions. On a serious note, don’t let them use too much technology because it is extremly addictive. DON’T let them waste their teenage years like I did. You were lucky to grow up in the 90s, most of us wish we had the same upbringing. Even though teenagers these days aren’t the most popular crowd, be sympathetic because many of us are screaming for help.

    From a grateful 17 year old daughter (Australia)

  • Sophie

    Hello Gen,
    When your kids grow up to be teenagers please protect them from technology. It will save them from a life of unhappiness and insecurity. The teenagers of today long for an upbringing like yours.
    From a 17 year old daughter (Australia).

  • Natalya

    Hello Genevieve. You are a wonderful young beautiful woman! I am surprised that you have three children, you have time for other remarkable interesting activities. blog, website, books, recipes. children always take an enormous amount of time. English is not my native language and I use Google translator. I wanted to ask you one question, if you find time to read and answer me. I also have children, but they are older than your children, 20 and 16 years old, boys. they persuaded to watch your famous TV series. and I saw how this show impressed my sons. he helped them to become stronger, to appreciate each other, to be more open and communicative. it inspired me to do something for you. so that i can. I create educational books for kids (logic, motor skills, color perception, memory) and I created three such handmade books for your Odette and for the Ackles twins. I sent these books to the address of the Family Business Brewery in April of this year (I found it on the Internet). but I do not know whether you received them, or you did not agree to accept gifts from strangers. I would love to believe that you did not throw away these books. may be given to their children in need.

    • Amy Weiser

      Natalya,
      Family Business Brewery is the Ackles Camp, but knowing his wife, Daneel, I am sure that your package made it’s way back to Gen, as they both live in Austin. What a beautiful gift! Blessings to you and your family. I have children ages 3 – 25. 7 kids between my husband and me! I don’t know how Gen gets anything done or keeps her house clean. My 3 year old and 9 year old keep me so busy!

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  • Amy Weiser

    I am grateful that you share your lives with us, your adventures but also you guys keep it real. I’m 5’3 and my husband is 6’2. We’re high school sweethearts and we’ve known each other for 30 years. You and Jared remind me so much of us. Drew is also my caregiver because I am chronically ill. It’s hard for him. I hope that you and your family stay healthy. I was fun loving riding horses then bam, suddenly my life stops. It’s hard accepting changes in my life, losing my career, not being the mom I want to be. I try to exercise then it hurts or I’m tired, often bedridden. #LymeSux But the love of a good man and my children and my pal Destiny keep me strong and you guys keep my laughing and smiling. You mean the world to us.

  • Melissa Gomez

    Truly inspired by your amazing way of enjoying life and the little things that makes it special. Your family is unbelievably beautiful, can’t even talk about your kids they’re just too cuteee! I really love the holidays specially because as a college student I get to enjoy mi family after so long, and it’s an incredible time to remind myself that every year with them is pure gold. I hope you had a pretty fun and full of love holidays, and can’t wait to see your new content. Lots of love and a hug from Mexico!!

  • Alicia Shilston

    Lovely Post. I was interested in buying the 5 minute journal you wrote about, but it happens there are quite a few versions out there. Which is the version you use?

  • Emaly Szijjarto

    Hey Gen, you’re a great mom and seem like an easy going down to earth woman. You are beautiful. I have a 2 year old boy I’m raising and I’m just wondering how do you have time to do the things you love and take care of your children and cook? I have a lot of issues with myself and it’s hard for me to push myself to do the things I love, but baby steps

  • Judith

    Hi Gen! I loved your post!
    I think we are not aware of what gratitude really means and how important is for our lives. So thank you for this little reminder.
    Love from Spain

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