Research suggests that practicing gratitude on a regular basis can lead to both a healthier and happier life. It allows us to focus on having a positive mindset, helping to eliminate the negative and intrusive toxic thoughts that we often have.
Personally, I practice gratitude in a small way every day, and it has really helped to shift my perspective on things.
Here are a few ways that I practice gratitude:
I find gratitude in unique things.
It’s very easy to be grateful for things that are obvious, like having enough food to eat. But we often don’t give thanks to our bodies for our ability to eat. Millions of Americans avoid certain foods due to allergies, intolerance, or gastrointestinal disorders. For some people, eating is stressful and can be isolating in social situations.
I am grateful that my food limitations are only due to my dislikes (I’ve never met a beet that I liked), and pose no threat to me. This has allowed me to be more sensitive when preparing food for others, taking into consideration many different diets. It has been proven that gratitude increases empathy, and this is one way that it shows up for me.
In addition to simply having enough to eat, I also have access to food. Food deserts are littered all across America, leaving many people with limited options and unhealthy choices. Knowing this, I like to donate to food banks, giving others the opportunity to access healthy food.
I let my gratitude “spiral.”
A few weeks ago my in-laws called us asking if we would like a weekend to ourselves while they watched the kids for a couple of days. The kids’ bags were practically packed before we got off the phone! Yes, we were so grateful that we had a weekend to relax by ourselves, but my gratitude went deeper than that . . . it spiraled.
I am grateful for in-laws that are physically able to watch our kids and grateful that they also want to spend time with them. I am happy that we have flexibility with our children to spend two days away from us. Knowing some parents who have children with special needs, this would not be possible, or would be much more difficult. The simple act of having grandparents watch our kids on a whim encompasses so much to be grateful for.
I marvel at my life’s journey.
Sometimes when the kids are playing, my husband is in his office, and I’m catching up on a show, I will stop and think how this was only a dream years prior. When my husband and I first got married, we lived apart for two years because of immigration issues. I remember waiting for the day where I didn’t have to haul my overnight bag across the border, and we could live under one roof.
Then when I was ready to have kids, the concept seemed so “out there” for me. I was anxious about all things pregnancy–feeling sick (I have terrible car sickness and I was picturing at least three months of that feeling), suffering a birth injury, being sleep deprived, gaining massive amounts of weight, and the list went on and on. Now I sit here today living the life that I dreamed of and often catch myself musing, “Is this really my life?”
I don’t take the small things for granted.
Every night before the kids go to bed, we have family prayers and I am genuinely thankful that we are kept safe throughout the day. It’s never guaranteed that we can all leave the house, drive to our destinations, and come home safely. When I thank God at the end of the night, I’m reminded that I was given the gift of a safe day.
I give thanks to the physical capabilities of my body.
Too much time is spent beating ourselves up over what our bodies look like, rather than what they can do, which I’m guilty of also. I’ve shifted the focus to what my body can do. During a workout, I will push myself to do those last few reps by telling myself how strong and capable my body is.
Regardless of our individual physical abilities, we can all do something, only made possible by our bodies. It’s worth remembering, and thanking, and using that as leverage to push through, even if it’s doing another dreaded burpee.
I get excited about the possibilities a new day brings.
Just like I’m grateful to come home safely from work, I’m grateful when I wake up to see a brand new day. I look forward to the people I may meet, the things I’ll learn, and the stories I may hear. Oftentimes, the most wonderful things that happen in life are random and unexpected.
How to Show Gratitude: November Challenge
This November, create your own list of ways you can practice gratitude for the next 30 days. They don’t have to be grand gestures; small acts can go a long way. Here are some ideas:
Friends and Family
- Thank a family member for a lesson that you learned from them while you were a child. Let them know how you’ve used it as an adult.
- Invite a friend over for lunch, dinner, charcuterie board, whatever! Let them know what their friendship means to you. If they aren’t local, send a card through snail mail. It’s a nice change from a text filled with emojis!
- Plan a date night for your significant other
- Give your child(ren) a big hug, and let them know how special they are to you
- Give a family member a genuine compliment
- Tell your family that you love them
- Plan a family game night
- Offer to babysit for a friend while they run errands
- Plan a friendsgiving where everyone takes turns saying something nice about each other
- Dance with your significant other to “your” song
- Donate clothes and/or toys to a local charity
- Bake cookies for a neighbor
- Support a local business
- Send baked goods to your child’s school
- Rake your neighbor’s leaves
- Share the apples that you picked at the local orchard
- Write a thank you note to your child’s teacher
- Donate books to your library
- Leave snacks in the break room for your co-workers to enjoy
- Use reusable snack/sandwich/storage bags
- Bring your own bags to the grocery store
- Ditch plastic water bottles and use a reusable one
- Check for any water leaks around your house
- Buy hand soap in bulk and use refillable containers
- Buy locally sourced food whenever possible
- Incorporate weekly meatless meals
- Get creative and repurpose leftovers
- Switch to LED lights, and turn lights off when not in use
- Recycle and upcycle
I believe that most of us practice gratitude in some way without realizing it. Being intentional about it and practicing it on a daily basis have shown to be beneficial to both physical (boosts the immune system by lowering stress levels) and mental (lowers anxiety and depression) health. It also creates a feeling of optimism and serves to strengthen relationships in your life.
Let this November be a month where you flex your gratitude muscle so you can start incorporating these practices all year round. Thank yourself later!