Thanksgiving is almost here. For many of you, this means a chance to get together with family and friends, eat turkey and all the fixings, and take some much needed time off from work. Thanksgiving is also a great time to well, give thanks and be grateful.
While it’s nice for your relatives to go around the Thanksgiving table and state one thing they're grateful for, this is also a perfect time to start your own gratitude practice. In fact, practicing gratitude on the regular can boost your happiness and enhance your sense of well-being, according to Happify Daily.
Those who practice gratitude - even in the simplest ways - tend to sleep better, exude more compassion, be less lonely, have stronger immune systems, and be more optimistic, according to an article written by leading scientific gratitude expert Robert Emmons in Greater Good Magazine.
Now that you know about the positive benefits of gratitude, you may be wondering how to start your own daily gratitude practice. Well you've come to the right place. Pretzel Kids yoga has compiled a list of 6 top ways to practice gratitude - starting right now.
1. Start a gratitude journal
Each day, spend five minutes or more writing down anything you feel grateful for. Perhaps you’re grateful that your boss let you take the afternoon off to pick your son up from school early, or maybe you just got asked to teach a Pretzel Kids yoga class at your daughter’s daycare center. What are YOU grateful for? And, don’t forget to jot down the little things as well, like finding a five dollar bill in your winter jacket pocket.
Gratitude journals seem so simple but the effects are profound, according to Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. By keeping a gratitude journal for only three weeks, you’ll often notice the positive benefits mentioned above, stated Emmons in Greater Good Magazine.
2. Take a mindful walk every day.
For this to work, all you need is about 15-20 minutes each day to go for a walk outside. Although walking in nature is great, you can also mindfully walk to the grocery store, across a parking lot - wherever! The key here is to notice the sights, sounds, scents and even the air temperature around you as you walk. Notice what makes you feel happy, sad, or frustrated. Be in the moment and be grateful for all the comfort, discomfort and anything else that arises.
3. Spend one week (or more!) writing thank you notes
Remember when writing thank you notes was a “thing”? These days, we’re all so busy that shooting off a quick email seems to suffice. But for this gratitude exercise, set aside a few minutes every day for a solid week and write one to three thank you notes daily. These notes can be written to anyone in your life. Perhaps you want to tell your mother that you are thankful for everything she’s done for you. Or, maybe you want to leave your mailman a note thanking him for delivering your mail for six years straight. Just think: Your letter will likely make your letter carrier's day!
By thanking others, you get a chance to reflect on those who you are thankful for. Plus, you’ll make a whole lot of other people feel good!
4. Pick one charity
Are you grateful for a particular organization in your community? Perhaps a homeless shelter? A local children’s hospital? This holiday season, pick an organization that you’re thankful for and donate either your time or money - or both!
By helping out, you’ll feel a sense of gratitude. Plus, that organization will be grateful for your assistance. Better yet, you may receive a thank you note from the charity. What goes around, comes around!
5. Be thankful for the little things
This is really a practice of mindfulness. It’s a way of noticing all the things in your daily life and saying a quiet “thank you.” For example, each time you wash your hands, you can express inner gratitude for clean water and soap. Each time you eat, you can be thankful for nourishing food. Every time you pick up the phone and hear a friend’s voice, be grateful for that person in your life.
6. Practice meditation
Meditation can take many forms but one thing is for sure: Regardless of your chosen path, this takes practice and you’ve got to start somewhere. If you’re new to meditation, start with five minutes a day and work up from there. Here are some 3 basic beginner tips for seated meditation:
- Find a quiet room where you can sit comfortably, with your spine erect, but not rigid.
- Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and allow your body to relax. Notice any physical sensations. Warmth? Tingling? Vibrations?
- When you feel settled, bring your awareness to your breathing. There is no need to control or change anything about it. Just observe its natural flow. Each time you realize that your mind has wandered away from your breath - and it will wander often - gently bring it back. Sounds, thoughts, and sensations will arise. Just allow them to come and go without getting caught up in them.
So, what does meditation have to do with gratitude? By learning to pay attention, slow down and appreciate being in the “now,” you will begin to rewire your brain and become more grateful. In turn, you’ll start to feel happier and more at peace. And that’s something you should definitely be thankful for!