10 Simple Things You Can Do Every Day to Practice Gratitude
Sure, we hear all the time that practicing gratitude is a good thing, that it can help increase positivity, lower stress, improve health, and more. But “practicing gratitude” is a rather vague phrase that can be difficult to translate into specific actions. What does it look like, and how can I fit it into my already busy life?
We’re answering these questions with 10 ideas for simple things you can do every day to practice gratitude. Pick a few, try them all, or just focus on one — we’re grateful you’re giving this list a go! (See what we did there?)
- Write in a gratitude journal. Already have one? Great! If not, check out our blog post on how to start a gratitude journal.
- Call (or text, email, or video call) a friend or family member to tell them you value them. Reminding the people in your life that you care about them brightens their day as well as yours. Want to take it a step further? Go the snail mail route and send that someone a card or letter!
- Follow a social media account that only makes you feel grateful, inspired, or otherwise positive — so, not jealous, competitive, or angry! Maybe it’s someone who shares daily affirmations, journaling exercises, or gorgeous glimpses of nature. Maybe it’s a dog or cat account. Find something that makes you smile!
- Appreciate one thing with each of your five senses. For example: Perhaps you stop to notice and feel thankful for the heat seeping into your hands while holding your coffee mug, the birds chirping when you step outside in the morning, the scent of the bread aisle at the grocery store, the burst of crisp sweetness when you bite into an apple at lunch, and the way the sky fades from orange to navy at the end of the sunset.
- Do something for someone else — a coworker, a friend, a family member, even a stranger! This can be something large, like volunteering at a local community center or nonprofit, or something small, like holding the door for someone or putting change into a tip jar. It all depends on what you have going on that day and how much time and energy you have to spare, but showing kindness will be worth spending that time and energy.
- Say a purposeful thank you to three people. We say “Thanks!” without thinking about it all the time, similar to how we often automatically respond “good” or “fine” when asked how we’re doing. Find three moments to tell someone thank you, and be genuine and intentional about it (but of course, also make sure to remain appropriate, especially if you’re not close with the person you’re thanking!).
- Challenge time: Look for something to be grateful for in a challenge you’ve faced during the day. It’s hard to unearth the positive in the negative, and some clouds just don’t have a silver lining. But you might discover that a lot of the everyday difficulties we face, while still remaining difficult, can be brightened a bit by finding something constructive within them that you can use moving forward.
- Steal five minutes for yourself. And we mean totally, completely alone — no cell phone, no internet, no kids or partner or boss. Spend these five minutes doing something you always say you’d do if you had more time, such as painting, stretching, reading, or something else entirely. Yes, five minutes isn’t very long, but that just makes it more likely that you’ll be able to fit it into your daily schedule. Besides, five minutes a day is 35 minutes a week and around 152 minutes (so, over 2 and a half hours!) a month, meaning that thing you’ve always wanted to do? You’re doing it.
- Focus on your food as you eat it. Ever notice how between work, your family, the TV, and everything else, you can scarf down your meal without even tasting it? You work hard to put food on the table. Make sure to take at least a few bites a meal that you truly recognize and enjoy. Close your eyes and appreciate the flavor and the nourishment your food provides you.
- Breathe. We’re not talking about the short, mindless breaths you take all day, every busy day. You might even be taking them right now — are your breaths quick and shallow? Set aside a few moments a day where you stop and concentrate on your breath. Slow your inhale and exhale. Fill your lungs completely. There are hundreds of different breathing exercises out there; find one you like, or just breathe in a way that feels calming and empowering to you. The point is to bring a little intention to your breath so you can feel more grateful for each breath you take.
Regardless of how you choose to incorporate gratitude into your day, the very fact that you’re attempting to do so demonstrates that you are appreciative, you do care, and you’re not willing to take the things in your life for granted. This season of reflection can serve as a perfect time to show and grow your appreciation by starting a practical gratitude practice.
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