What if I told you that you could be happier, more resilient, and less depressed, with a simple exercise each day? What if I told you that you could improve your relationships, get better sleep, and increase empathy with that same practice? Surely, you’d sign up, right? Then get ready to develop a daily gratitude practice.
When people ask me how they can become happier and healthier, gratitude almost always ranks at the top of my list. Gratitude is a combination of recognition, appreciation, and joy, and the research is ridiculously clear about the benefits. However, a lot of people misunderstand gratitude. They think gratitude is reserved for big things and major moments. Ask people what they‘re grateful for, and the majority of people will say family, health, friends, or work in the first ten seconds. Don’t me wrong, these are awesome things to be grateful for, but they’re only a tiny sliver of what’s out there.
Gratitude is about recognizing things, no matter how small, that bring you joy. Gratitude is about having a tough day and choosing to name the things that went well, even if you have to dig. Gratitude is about spotting beauty in the simplest of moments.
Catching a glimpse of a bright red cardinal while walking to your car. The extra foam in your morning latte. The kind stranger who held the door for you. The compliment a friend gave you. Feeling the sun on your face as you walk outside. The fact that the estimate from the mechanic was lower than you expected. The fact that you have a car, as it allows you to move freely around your city. Having one banana left in the basket when you were certain you were out. The way your kids sound as they laugh at something silly. The cute dog you saw on your morning walk. The white flowers that are blooming outside your window.
Gratitude isn’t about being totally happy and then recognizing the good. Nope, quite the opposite really. Gratitude is about choosing to see the good, then feeling happier as a result. If you don’t have a daily gratitude practice, I am begging you to start one. Honestly, it’s so simple. And it makes such a huge difference. Want to get started?
Take a few minutes each day to name three things for which you are grateful. There’s a catch though. These things need to be new things, unique to your day. You can’t say what you said yesterday or the week prior. This new part is key. By naming three new things per day, you are teaching your brain how to scan through your day and recognize the good, rather than only seeing what loudly stands out.
While you don’t have to write these three things down, it helps. You can use a journal or your day planner. You can also keep a running note on your phone. It’s whatever works best for you.
It is so important that you practice this every single day, no matter what happens. This is the key to growing and strengthening your gratitude muscle. If you only practice gratitude on “good days” or when “big stuff” happens, you’ll completely miss it. The key is daily repetition, teaching your brain to scan for otherwise missable moments.
The power of gratitude is profound. I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen in the lives of clients. And if that doesn’t convince you, look at the research. Developing a daily gratitude practice is too good and too easy not to do.
So what are you waiting for?