Updated: 09 09/2022 – We all know what it means to be grateful. But, do you know what it means to practice gratitude?
There have been studies showing that those who make a conscious effort to “count their blessings” can change their feelings from sad and gloomy to happy and optimistic. Being thankful can increase your overall feeling of well-being. It can change a negative mindset into one of joy and happiness.
And that’s a great benefit!
But studies have also shown that one must continue to practice gratitude (being grateful) in order for the positive feelings to be long-lasting.
There are various ways to practice. And with a little adjustment, each of these ideas can be used to help your children to count their blessings as well!
Make a list of three to five things that you are grateful for today. Some things that may quickly come to mind are a family member, a beloved pet, or having a place to live.
But let me encourage you to think a little deeper.
Really think about your day. What were you able to do today because you’re in good health? Did your son give you a kiss and tell you how much he loves you? Was the sun shining brightly? Or, maybe a cat ran out in front of your car but you were able to avoid hitting it.
All of these things, people, and events are blessings.
Now, elaborate on why you are grateful for each of the items that you listed. Maybe it’s because:
- you’ve been able to exercise more
- which allows you to move freely without pain.
- And because you have no pain, you were able to paint the whole living room.
- And now that you have a nice airy feeling in your living space, you feel rejuvenated,
- which in turn, makes you happy and content.
So you see how being grateful affects your mood and attitude.
I encourage you to continue to write in your journal on a daily basis.
The time of day that you choose to write depends on you. The entry can be made as soon as something happens and your thoughts are fresh. Or when you have a few minutes during your lunch break. But bedtime may be the best time; the day is over, the house is quiet, and you have time to truly reflect on your day.
Continue to make entries into your gratitude journal every day to get the full benefit and long-lasting effects.
While it may be difficult in the beginning, by writing consistently, you will create a new, positive habit.
By doing so, you are committing to a mindset filled with joy and happiness!
Read more on developing healthy habits.
Say Thank You
I watched my granddaughter today as my daughter went to her doctor’s appointment at lunchtime. And no matter how often I babysit for her, I always get a big hug, a kiss, and a heartfelt thank you from her and my daughter. I know that I am appreciated. It makes me feel good.
How many people have you communicated with since you got up this morning – in person, on the phone, at the grocery store, or at work?
During any of those conversations, were there opportunities to thank them for any reason? Or for them to thank you? Did you or the other person actually say thanks?
Think about someone you can thank today. Maybe thanks for the phone call, thanks for running an errand for you, or thank you for making dinner. You get the gist.
Take a listen to Brian Doyle’s 365 days of thank you TED Talk. He begins his talk about the day that he almost died and the impact it had on his life. He is changed forever as he finds someone to truly and sincerely thank every day for a year!
His idea of how to practice gratitude is wonderful!
Practice Family Gratitude
When we think about those who are the most important to us in our lives, we think of family. And sometimes, family members are least likely to be shown appreciation. We tend to take the little things for granted that loved ones do – brew the morning coffee, stop for milk after work, or attend every soccer game during the season.
Do you share your thankfulness with those loved ones for spending time with you or remembering special days?
So here are a few ways to practice family gratitude.
Create a Family Gratitude Board
You will need:
- a chalkboard, corkboard, whiteboard, or any kind of board that can be hung
- chalk, pens, writing utensil
- push pins or tape
Hang your board in a common area in the house, possibly the kitchen, where everyone will see it. Put up happy pictures, family snapshots, positive words, hearts – anything that makes you smile.
Every day, put up a note for the whole family, a particular family member, or one for each family member. Encourage each family member to do the same.
If the little ones can’t write yet, let them draw a picture and place it on the board by themselves.
If someone has a particularly stressful event coming up, write a note of encouragement.
Have contests with prizes, design cards for special occasions, or draw pictures of a family pet.
Be creative and make it fun! Get everyone involved in your family’s gratitude board.
Make a Family Gratitude Jar
What you will need:
- a jar, box, or any container – make it look happy with stickers, drawings, etc.
- a pen
- notepaper – a different color for each family member
Encourage every family member to write something nice to or about each member of the family. Do this daily and by the end of the week they will have written something for everyone.
Pick a time for everyone to sit down together to read the notes that were left for them.
Happy Family Time
Carve out a short time at the end of the day (at the dinner table or right before bedtime) to spend a few minutes with family members – just to check in and share the events of the day.
This can be done with all members being present or with each one individually.
If you have small children, when tucking them in, talk about the happy moments that they had during the day. Make up a happy time song and sing it with your child or incorporate thankful thoughts into their bedtime prayers.
Practice gratitude with your family and soon you will have created a tradition with many happy memories.
Rewire Your Brain to be Grateful and Happy
Do you spend a lot of time worrying, yelling at the kids, or maybe arguing on Facebook?
When you find yourself frustrated or angry, stop for one minute. Go to the nearest mirror and look at your reflection. Are your brows furrowed? Jaw clenched? Shoulders tensed up?
I’m going to ask you something a little different now. While looking in the mirror, release all of the tightness in your face – forehead, brows, mouth – one area at a time. Let your jaw go slack. Let the tension in your shoulders go. You will actually be able to see the tenseness leaving your body.
Now, think of a happy place, a beautiful location that you are grateful to have visited – the beach, the mountains, your favorite vacation spot.
Put a smile on your face. Your cheeks will rise with your smile. Show those dimples! Let your eyes smile – reflect happiness.
Compare how you feel now with how you felt when you first looked into the mirror.
Your mind understood that you began to smile and became relaxed, and it went to work. Your brain released happy chemicals, such as endorphins and dopamine.
And all because you stayed in the moments and recalled grateful memories!
Change your Thought Patterns
When you find yourself being unhappy, in a bad mood, or in the beginning stages of being overwhelmed, imagine a big red STOP sign.
That’s your signal to think of things that you are grateful for. Start to count your blessings. Write them down in your Gratitude Journal.
And don’t forget, repeat this process over and over and over again. Eventually, you will begin to do this without a second thought.
Envision Your Gratitude
I love to make vision boards of things and people that I am thankful for.
What you need:
- Poster Board
- magazines, printed verses, meaningful quotes, personal photos
- glue stick
Now start cutting out pictures, words, and quotes that are meaningful to you. Anything that makes you happy. Glue them onto your poster board. There is no right way to do this – whatever is pleasing to your eye.
When finished, place your Board in a place where you will see it. This will be a visual reminder to be grateful.
Or, you can make your board online. Below is a vision board that I made online using Canva.com. They offer a free version of the program if you’d like to try it.
Once you have completed your online board, make it your computer wallpaper so that you are reminded of everything that you are thankful for when you turn on your computer.
Remember to Express Your Gratitude
Call your grandparents, video chat with your parents and grandchildren, or reconnect with an old friend over coffee. And don’t forget to thank them for the impact that they’ve had on your life.
Gratitude enriches and brings great benefits to everyones’ lives.
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