Finding ways to practice gratitude means intentionally engaging with our hearts and minds to focus on the things, large or small, that we appreciate in our day-to-day lives.
When you cultivate new ways to practice gratitude, you’ll generally find yourself happier and more content. A gratitude practice doesn’t need to be lengthy or complicated—it’s really all about increasing your awareness and acknowledging the positive or helpful things in your life. The effort is minimal and the payoff is enormous.
I’ve pulled together a short list of easy ways to practice gratitude in your life today!
1. Spend time outside
Nothing will make you more aware of how big the world is, and how small some of your worries may be by comparison, than spending some time outside. Step outside and notice: the fresh air on your face, the cool trickle of a creek, the bright green of the grass, the golden shades of fall leaves, the funny shapes of fluffy clouds, the soft light right after sunrise or right before sunset. Simply being outside and taking the time to notice the sights, smells, and sounds around you will help you feel more connected and grounded. It’s really hard to not feel grateful for nature when you make time to marvel in her beauty.
2. Keep a tally
Put a sticky note on the back of your phone, in your wallet, or somewhere you can easily access it. Every time you catch yourself thinking, “I love that!” or “That’s so cool,” make a tally on your sticky note. You don’t have to record what you are appreciating, just keep a simple tally of how many times you find yourself feeling grateful. At the end of the day, you may be surprised at just how many positive things you noticed over the course of your day.
3. Find a buddy
Accountability partners can work wonders when you’re driving toward a particular goal. Instead of a goal-focused accountability partner, find a gratitude partner. You can text each other frequently throughout the day with updates—“A coworker complimented me on my presentation!”)— or send a summary at the end of the day—“Today I’m really grateful for hot coffee, my cute dog, fuzzy warm blankets, and Netflix.” Having someone to share with actually helps increase the positive effects because you get to experience twice as much gratitude
4. Enjoy your food and drink
Instead of scarfing down lunch or gulping your morning coffee, try slowing things down. Take time to taste your food, acknowledge the different textures, and enjoy the aromas. You don’t have to eat or drink anything fancy to appreciate it. The first sip of a really cold beer or a hot, frothy coffee might just be the best thing you experience all day.
Block out five minutes at some point during your day (don’t feel pressured to make it first thing in the morning or right before bed) to sit still and think about your day. Reflect on what you’ve done, how you’ve felt, the people you’ve encountered, and how you’ve reacted to the events of the day. This isn’t a time to be judgmental or hard on yourself—just make time to acknowledge your reality. Don’t feel compelled to focus on the positives or try to diminish the challenging aspects of the day, simply accept what is true about your present.
6. Serve others
It may feel counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to improve your own attitude is to focus on other people. Serving others, in any number of capacities, generally increases your feeling of satisfaction and gratitude. Love dogs? Spend an afternoon walking pups at your local dog shelter. Love kids? Offer to babysit for free for a single mom in your office. Love nature? Pick up trash in a nearby park. Find a way to use your interests to help someone else and reap the gratitude benefits.
Challenge yourself to respond to every negative or critical thought with a positive or grateful thought. Look in the mirror and cringe at your bad hair day? Express your gratitude for the awesome new lipstick you’re rocking. Receive a negative comment on your work performance? Respond internally by listing one way you can immediately implement the suggested improvement, even if the suggestion wasn’t the kindest. Lose your temper when your toddler throws a massive tantrum? Apologize, kiss them, and tell them you love them. There’s generally a positive spin to even the worst thoughts or events, so stretch your gratitude muscles by finding things to be grateful for even in the midst of negative thinking or criticism.