Being grateful can reduce stress. Can it really be that easy? Can being thankful for what you have make you happier? Research says yes. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude on a daily basis can make you happier, lower stress, protect you from depression, help you sleep better, boost your immune system and improve your relationships.
Gratitude is paying attention to what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. It is finding satisfaction from what is around you and paying attention to the people, situations and things that make your life worthwhile. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, in his book, Thanks How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, there are three stages of gratitude: recognizing what you are grateful for, acknowledging it and appreciating it.
The following are ten ways you can start incorporating gratitude into your life today:
Use a Gratitude Box - Place two boxes on your kitchen table - one for complaints and one for things you are thankful for. Whenever you have a complaint about anything in your life, write it down and put it in the complaint box. But, for each complaint, write down to gratitude slips and place in the gratitude box. Each day, whether you wrote down a complaint or not, fill out two slips for the gratitude box. Keep it up for at least one month and see if you notice that you are automatically finding things to be grateful for each day instead of finding reasons to complain.
Create a Gratitude Journal- Use a journal with a personalized cover, a notebook or your phone (there are a number of gratitude journal apps) and write down three things you are grateful for each day. Push yourself to do this every day, no matter how you feel. Make a commitment to write down three things each day for 30 days.
Take a Five Minute Break - Practice deep breathing and remind yourself of what you are grateful for. If you feel stressed because of work, the kids or a fight with your spouse, stop what you are doing, sit down, take several deep breaths (feel your abdomen fill up) and relax. Think about three things that make your life worthwhile.
Remember Difficult Times from the Past - You might take your life today for granted but chances are you have been through some difficult times that have shaped the person you are today. Remembering how far you have come and all that you have overcome can help you remember how much you have to be thankful for today.
Use Inspirational Quotes - Are you having a hard time sitting down and purposely thinking of what makes you grateful? Some people prefer to use inspirational quotes as their motivation for appreciating the world around them. Search online for quotes that fit your situation and take a few moments each day to reflect on the quotes you chose.
Create a Gratitude Board - Hang a bulletin board in a place you will see it everyday. Each day write down (or post a picture) of something you are grateful for or something that went right in your life. As you post it, review what you have posted on previous days to remind yourself how much in your life you are thankful for.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts - How often do you use negative words or complain about something or someone in your mind? Pay attention and when you catch yourself doing this, try to turn the thought around to something positive. If it helps, keep a notebook with a line drawn down the middle of the page. On the left side, write down your negative thought. On the right side, write a more positive way of looking at the situation.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others -. When you compare what you have, how you look or anything else to others, you often come up short. Remember that you are not here to measure up to someone else, you are here to be the best you can be. When you catch yourself comparing yourself to someone else, stop and reword your thought to show your appreciation to everything wonderful that is you!
Practice Mindfulness - Mindfulness is living completely in the present moment. It helps you stay focused and calm. It shuts out worries about the future or regrets and heartaches of the past. It reminds you that "this moment" is the most important moment and the only one that matters. Use mindfulness exercises every day to help relieve stress and refocus your thoughts.
Tell People Thank You - Gratitude can be the most wonderful gift you give yourself and others. Say "Thank you" to the people in your life you are grateful for. Let them know what they mean to you. Not only will you make their day, you will feel uplifted for having shared your gratitude.
If you need help getting started, there are a number of apps to help you create a gratitude journal or you can choose to participate in a gratitude challenge - such as the 21 Day Challenge or the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge on Facebook.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.