Practice Gratitude – A Practical Guide for a Happy Life

thank you, feedback, letters

You may be hammered with this message – “Practice Gratitude”, “Gratitude will change your life.” Everywhere you turn to, from social media to your friends next door, all of them keep screaming this advice back to you.

So I decided why shouldn’t I do it too. But this will be different, I promise. Firstly, I care about you and want to give you a practical guide relevant to 2021. Your growth is what interests me the most.

Secondly, I’ve included examples which you can apply in your life. You’ll extract the most from the blogpost when you actively practice what’s being preached. Otherwise, you’re just reading another post for fun. Without taking any action, this blogpost won’t help you.

In this blogpost, you’ll find a complete guide to practice gratitude. You can start implementing the steps right away. By the end of the article, you’ll know everything – from practicing gratitude to knowing how gratitude will change your life. Save this guide and keep coming back to it whenever you feel pessimistic.

What is gratitude? 

Gratitude is the simple act of focusing on the good things in life and being appreciative of them. The English word gratitude is borrowed from the Latin word “gratus”. 

Having gratitude means appreciating the good things in life. It’s as simple as saying thank you to someone who has helped you. Gratitude can be as simple as being grateful for the people in your life. Similarly, you can be grateful for the little joys in life. Gratitude isn’t restricted to people and things. It’s anything which makes your heart smile.

How to practice gratitude in 2021?

There are many ways you can practice being grateful. Here we’ll cover the most common ways in which you can start implementing gratitude in your life.

1. Say Thank You

A simple thank you goes a long way in showing appreciation for people. I have a friend who makes an effort to say thank you to every person he meets. Even strangers. Once, he accidentally forgot to say thank you. We reminded him. He went back, said thank you and returned with a smiling face.

This simple act of thanking someone goes a long way. Sometimes, people might be having a bad day. Your “Thank you” could lift their mood. On the other hand, it directly improves your mood too.

Imagine for a moment saying thank you to someone. Did you notice the little smile on your face? How did it make you feel? 

Cheerful? Happy? Notice how simple it is to say thank you and improve your mood.

2. Remember the good times

Gratitude is about remembering the good times and being thankful for it. When was the last time you felt you had a great time? 

Go back in your memory lane and find out when you had the time of your life? Focus on that moment. And now think about all the little things in that moment which made that moment special. If you’re a musician, it could be playing your guitar. It could be spending time with your partner or with your friends. Think about the people and things who made that moment possible. Now thank all of them mentally.

When you remember your good times, you realize how beautiful life is. This shifts your focus on the positive and good things in life. And by being thankful, you make space for more such moments to magically happen in your life.

3. Remember your bad times when you felt crushed

Now that’s a radical approach but stick with me. When you understand how the worst of life feels like, you’ll feel happier in the present moment. You’ll be more appreciative and thankful for the gifts the present moment has to offer.

Once again, take a dive in your memory lane. Rewind and think about the worst thing that has happened to you? Did that horrible boss kick you out of your job? Were you rejected by someone you had a big crush on? Did you miss the opportunity of getting into your dream college?   

Take a moment. I’ll wait…

Now come back to the present. Do you feel you are in a better position right now than you were in the past? This is the point of the exercise. To make you feel grateful about your present. It could be that you lost your job but found a better one. You didn’t get into your dream college but you found out your calling. Maybe you ended up with a person who was meant to be with you. 

When you remember the tough times you faced, you’ll start to be more appreciative of the things and people in your present life.

4. Keep a journal

Journaling is a great way to practice gratitude. A journal is a place where you can give words to all the good things in your life. There are many different ways you can practice the art of gratefulness in a journal.

One way is to write down 3 things in your life you are grateful for. In fact, there’s a simple question you can ask yourself – What are the 3 things I’m grateful for today?

The answers can be as simple as having your best friend to talk to. Or it can be as ridiculous as having electricity which powers your mobile phone. You can be thankful for your own life or thankful for the general stuff on earth. 

To give you an example, I’m grateful to my friends who’re there for me in my difficult times. Also, I’m grateful for the Netflix film Queen’s Gambit and Anya Joy Taylor’s portrayal of Elizabeth Harmon. She’s touched the chess community in a way even she can’t imagine.

If you’re a fan of having a house on Mars, you can be grateful for Elon Musk and Spacex. He’s crazy enough to get humanity there. 

You see, you can be grateful for anything in your life literally – from electricity to Elon Musk. Let your imagination run wild. Put it in your journal.

5. Practice gratitude while you meditate

The age old practice of mediation will never go out of style. Be it 10,000 BC or 2021 A.D. By practicing gratitude during mediation, you’ll significantly boost your mood and be able to relax quickly. 

This method is similar to remembering the good times. Set an intention to remember the good things in life and to appreciate them. Before starting the meditation, find a quiet place to sit and start focusing on your breath. Slowly change your focus to the intention you set to focus on the good things in life. Now mentally be thankful for all the good things in your life.

By the end of the meditation, you’ll feel calmer and happier.

6. Send Thank You Messages

The best way to show thankfulness is to be thankful and to express it. You can do it by speaking or by sending thank you messages. In his book “Who Will Cry When You Die”, the author Robin Sharma suggests writing handwritten thank you letters to people. That’s a great option but post pandemic, the world has shifted to digital means of communication. 

So what if we twist Robin’s idea to meet 2021’s standards? Instead of letters, let’s use Whatsapp or Instagram. The idea is the same. Think about someone who’s helped you. Send them a thank you note, letting them know you appreciate their help.

If you can’t think of someone who’s helped you, you can write to someone who’s had an influence on your life. It can be your childhood hero or someone you aspire to become like. Maybe you like Elon Musk. Find where people like him are active and send them a thank you note. Don’t think about getting a reply back. This is just an exercise about you being grateful. It’s not a sales pitch. Type your note and be thankful.

7. Take a walk 

Taking a walk is the best way to feel connected with the world around you. Walking helps you be grateful for the gifts Mother Earth has given you. 

Heard of the evening wind whistling past your ear? Does the smell of wet soil lift your mood up? What about the fresh air from the tall trees? Has it ever happened to you that you take a morning or evening walk and immediately feel better? Those are the very gifts from nature.

Walking is a great time to practice gratitude by making a mental note of all the things you’re thankful for. 

8. Smile

A simple flex of your mouth muscles can lift your mood. Smiling is one of the most underrated ways to express gratitude. Smiling is a great tool for showing gratitude towards other humans.

Try it out. Next time a delivery boy hands you his/her parcel, say thank you and smile back at him. He might also ask for a review and a good rating. It’s up to you whether you want to rate him or not. But one thing which’ll happen for sure is that he’ll smile back when you smile at him. It’ll make both of you feel happier.

Smiling is a powerful tool when you say thank you along with it. Use it to express gratitude.

9. Keep a Gratitude Box

This one is for the creatives. Some people practice gratitude by keeping a gratitude box which helps them focus on the good things in life. Recently, I saw a chess grandmaster using a special gratitude box to remind him of all the things he’s grateful for. That inspired me to write about a gratitude box.

A gratitude box is a box in which you put little chits of paper, pointing out all the good things in your life. This way, you can remember 1000 reasons to be grateful for, literally. The idea is simple. Focus on the things you’re grateful for and write them on a small piece of paper. Now deposit them in your gratitude box.

If you struggle with being grateful, this approach can be effective. Place a gratitude box and a notepad near your desk. That’s it.

The box will remind you daily to pour gratitude into it. In the process, you’ll feel more gratitude in your life.

What should I put in my gratitude list?

hands, writing, diary

So you’ve decided to write in your gratitude journal about the things you’re grateful for. Maybe you are confused about what you can include in your gratitude list. You can be thankful for everything and anything in your life. It totally depends on you. Here are a few example of what you can include in your gratitude list –

  • You’re grateful for your friends with whom you have an amazing time.
  • Post-pandemic, you can be grateful for the doctors and frontline workers who’re working tirelessly to make this world a safer place.
  • You can be grateful for the soldiers who stand on the borders, protecting your motherland. 
  • Having food and shelter to live a comfortable life. 
  • You can be grateful for your loved ones who are alive.
  • You can be grateful for the device on which you’re reading this.
  • Your ability to understand and speak the language is another thing to add to your gratitude list. Thank the one who taught you this language.
  • You can be grateful to yourself, for all your uniqueness. Thank god you’re different from the world.
  • You’re alive. Be grateful for that.

There are so many funny little things in life you can be grateful for. You can find gratitude in little thing you’re working on. With gratitude, the main idea is to consciously focus on the good things in your life.

What you shouldn’t put in your gratitude list?

This also brings me to another point. It’s important to also know what not to write in your gratitude list. Avoid everything which brings a negative vibe with it. This means avoid negative sentences. Sentences which put your focus on negatives are a big No-No. 

For example,

Don’t write – I’m grateful there was no rain today.

You’re being happy for something that DIDN’T happen. This is already putting your focus on the negative event itself. Instead of that, you can rephrase it better.

Do Write – I’m grateful that the weather was pleasant today.

You’re focusing on the good aspect. Little difference but it has a huge impact on your mood.

Why should you practice gratitude?

There are numerous benefits for one to start practicing gratitude.

gratitude, nature, life

Positive Approach 

The main aim of gratitude is to help you focus on the positives. Naturally, it’ll help you develop a positive approach in life. Follow this short exercise with me. Focus on all the worst things in your life. Easy right?

Now put your focus on all the good things in life? What are the things working in your favour? You see how easy it is to focus on the good and bad in life. By practicing gratitude you’re intentionally setting your focus on the positive things in your life. 

Better Social Relationships

What’s the simplest way to develop a relationship with someone? Appreciating the other person is a proven way of doing it. And how do you appreciate people? It can be by saying thank you or writing a long thank you note.

In either case, you’re appreciating the person. You’re thanking them and encouraging them. Wouldn’t it build your relationship with them? The most reasonable answer is a yes.

Improves your health and well-being

Gratitude improves your well-being. Research has shown how the practice of gratitude is helpful for improving your health.

When you focus on the good things, you’ll naturally feel more cheerful. This will help you deal with stress and anxiety in a more disciplined manner. Another research has shown that gratitude hits dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters which make us ‘feel good’.

This way when we practice gratitude daily, it helps us build these neural pathways in our brain. In this way, gratitude has a positive impact on your health.

What’s the best time to practice gratitude daily?

There’s no such perfect time to practice gratitude. However some people claim that after waking up from bed and before dozing off, are the two best times to practice being grateful. In my opinion however, you can practice gratitude during any time of the day. 

Let me give you a rough idea of when you can practice gratitude. But remember, it’s more about practicing it daily than following a strict schedule.  

After waking up

Your brain is fresh, clear and empty when you wake up in the morning. Your conscious mind is still hazy and half asleep. This makes it the perfect time to put a dose of grateful thoughts in your head. This way, you can start your day feeling cheerful and optimistic.

Before going to bed

Before going to bed is also considered to be a great time to be thankful. You can either journal your thoughts before going to bed or you can simply make a mental note. Use whatever works the best for you.

When does practicing gratitude become very important?

Gratitude will help you in any circumstances. But in some situations, practicing gratitude can mean a lot more. 

When the future looks terribly bleak, practice gratitude. 

Whenever the future looks bleak, we’ve a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of the situation. In such cases, gratitude can shift your focus on the good things going for you. By focussing on the good things, you’ll realize that the situation isn’t as bad as you’re painting it. You may be able to use the good things going for you and turn the whole situation around.  

Be grateful for your small victories.

Celebrating small victories is a sign of progress. When you’re grateful, you’ll remember where you come from and all the progress you’ve made. On the inside, you’ll be proud of the good things about you. Wouldn’t this make you smile a little more?

Cultivate good relationships by being thankful

What’s the best way to grow a relationship? To appreciate someone. To be thankful for someone. It’s as simple as it gets.

That’s why saying thank you can mean so much. It not only can make someone’s day, but it can help you build a good long-term relationship. No wonder my friend who has a habit of thanking people is so popular.

Can gratitude change your life? 

You may be wondering does the practice of gratitude work? The short answer is yes. Research has proven that when one practices gratitude, the ‘feel’ good hormones in the body, serotonin and dopamine are released. When these hormones are released, they make us feel happier.

In one research, it was also proven that gratitude can make structural changes to your brain. So yes, even science acknowledges the benefits of gratitude.

Final Word on Gratitude

Practicing daily gratitude will help you feel happier and joyful. Socially, it’ll help you make friends from strangers. It’ll also strengthen your existing relationship.

Science has also proven that gratitude can make you feel physically, mentally and emotionally better. 

In the end, the practice of gratitude has numerous positive benefits. It’s up to you to implement it to see a change in you. Start small and be consistent. You’re on your way to live a more optimistic life.

Revisit this guide whenever you feel down. Share it with the people who you believe should have a more positive approach in life. Let me know in the comments what’s the biggest thing you’re grateful for.

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