‘Tis the season for giving thanks! However, gratitude isn’t just for once a year; it is a continual process we should practice each day. Gratitude is a conscious, positive emotion one can express when feeling thankful for something, whether tangible or intangible. It can help you establish a more positive mindset, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Try these nine tips to turn this season of thanks into a lifetime practice of gratitude.
1. Observe your gratitude. What are some areas in your life where you do a good job of remembering to be grateful? Where could you use a little less negativity and a little more gratitude? Observation can help you identify those times where you might fall into the habit of assuming or expecting the worst versus practicing thankfulness more automatically.
2. Take time to reflect. After observing, reflect on what you noticed. Establish a time and place that works with your schedule, like before bed or during your commute, whenever you have some quiet time alone.
3. Write it down. Try writing what you’re grateful for in a journal. This can be a great way to bring up memories from everyday events and keep thankfulness top of mind. If writing every day seems too much, just remember that the more you do it, the more you will strengthen your skill. Soon you will begin to mentally take note of your gratitude without having to write it down.
4. Use visual reminders. Two common issues you might run into when starting a gratitude practice are forgetfulness and a lack of awareness. To avoid this, integrate visual reminders around you, like in your office, car, or home. These could be pictures of your loved ones, your children’s drawings, your favorite vacation spot, or even motivational quotes on sticky notes, anything that can serve as a cue to trigger thankful thoughts.
5. Watch your words. The words you use (or don’t use) have a bigger impact than you might think. Try using more words that show how grateful you are for others. This gets you into the habit of expressing gratitude more freely.
6. Share your gratitude with others. Always remember to give thanks to those you are grateful for. Oftentimes we assume people already know, but they might not, or it might just be helpful for them to hear it out loud. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your partner, friend, or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.
7. Physically show your gratitude. This can be as easy as a smile, hug, saying “thank you”, or even a note or text. By practicing these motions of gratitude, you’ll more easily get in the habit of showing thanks more often.
8. Remember the bad. It can be helpful to remember the challenging times you’ve gone through before in order to be grateful. When you remember how those times used to be hard and how far you’ve come, it gives you the strength to know you can get through it again now. So, be grateful for those hard times!
9. Share your process with others. Don’t keep your gratitude practice to yourself. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must look creatively for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful and then share that with others.
Keep your gratitude going all year-long. Treat it like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it will get! Consider meeting with a JFS therapist to keep that grateful mindset going strong. Call (407) 644-7671 or complete our online form to request an appointment today. Telehealth counseling appointments are available. Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurances accepted, and a sliding fee scale available for those who do not have insurance.
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.