By Julie Stephenson from Southwest Health’s Community Outreach Department.
“In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast.
When we live gratefully, we notice what is already present, plenty and abundant in our lives, from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings. Approaching each day with a lens of gratitude, however, does not happen overnight. Gratefulness is nourished in small doses through daily reminders, reflections, affirmations, and practices. It deepens with repetition and expands with support.
Gratitude isn’t just a concept we should visit annually over a turkey and pumpkin pie. It’s a mindset that’s been scientifically shown to help nourish your mind and body – improving sleep, easing depression, boosting immunity, and lowering stress. The good news is that you can conjure it anywhere. No matter the size, shape or occasion, any bit of thankfulness is guaranteed to do you good. Below are 3 gratitude exercises to work your mindset muscles.
Gratitude Exercise #1: Think about your Gamechangers. Sit for a moment and ponder who deserves your thanks. Chances are, your short list will include praise-worthy people like a spouse, sibling or a transformative teacher. And when you explore a bit further, you may just discover some less likely Gamechangers – unlikely events, impulsive decisions, and familiar objects that deserve your thanks for having improved your life in ways you never would have expected.
This reflection sets up one of the most powerful gratitude exercises, the one we will explore next – Three Good Things. This seemingly simple activity, when done with diligence, can increase your daily levels of happiness.
Gratitude Exercise #2: Three Good Things. Basically, this is a gratitude exercise that helps you to create a habit of being gracious. Here’s the simple Three Good Things exercise:
- Every night, just before you go to bed, sit down for a while and look back at your day.
- Then think of 3 things that went well for you during the day.
- Write them down. Reflect and brood upon each of them.
That’s all there is to it. This simple exercise is effective in producing higher levels of thankfulness and appreciation. More importantly, participants who counted their blessings on a regular basis became happier as a result.
Gratitude Exercise #3: Develop an Appreciation of Self. A lesser known form of gratitude is self-gratitude. Self-gratitude parallels and overlaps with self-care or self-love. Practicing self-gratitude is about building a connection with yourself, developing awareness for all you have, and finding awe in the world around you. By making this a habit, you can shift your thinking to be more conscience and connected. Here are a few things you can do to help develop your appreciation of self.
- Identify 3 things that you appreciate about yourself.
- Take a walk and be mindful of the things around you to be thankful for.
- List good qualities you have.
- Identify 3 things that you feel awe for in your present– right now–experience.
- Thank yourself in front of a mirror.
As you can see, gratitude can become practice even during our busy days. Being appreciative and thankful is one of the most powerful ways to transform your life, health, and happiness. I hope these exercises allow you to invite gratitude into your life on a daily basis.