How To Practice Gratitude: 7 Life-Changing Exercises To Be Grateful

One of the most powerful emotions you and I can experience is the feeling of gratitude. Studies show that people who are grateful experience better mental health. It’s true for both well-adjusted people and those who struggle because of mental health concerns. That’s why in this article, I’ll share with you some life-changing ways on how to practice gratitude.

This Isn’t Just Woo-Woo, Feel-Good Stuff

What you’ll learn in this post is backed by multiple pieces of research from various reliable research bodies. For example, the research done by a Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Martin Seligman. He researched the effect of positive psychology intervention on 411 people.

In one intervention, Dr. Seligman asked for them to write a gratitude letter to someone who they thought was underappreciated. The results were surprising. In fact, results from the exercise lasted longer than a month. Imagine if you get the habit of expressing gratitude to people around you – including yourself.

When you learn how to practice gratitude, it doesn’t just affect your mental health. It also has a profound positive benefit to your physical health. According to Glenn Fox, an expert in the science of gratitude, being grateful is associated with better health. Some benefits are:

  • Better sleep;
  • More motivation to exercise;
  • Reduces symptoms of physical pain;
  • Lower levels of inflammation;
  • Lower blood pressure;
  • And many more

The truth is, the extent of how much you benefit from this is based on how willing you are to practice gratitude. It’s like an exercise. The more you do it, the better and healthier you get. Also, it becomes easier to count your blessings when outside pressure tries to break you.

Let’s dive into… 

Mindfulness And Gratitude Exercises

In this section, I’ll share with you different ways on how to practice gratitude. These may be simple, but they are life-changing.

We see the world through different lenses. Unless you change the way you see things, the things you see will never change. For example, if all you think about is negative things (the way you see things), your life will be full of them. Everywhere you look – the news, social media updates of your friends, etc. is nothing but negative. On the other hand, exposing yourself to things you’re grateful for removes the lens of negativity.

All I ask is that you keep an open mind and try them out. It’s easy to dismiss the idea that there’s something to be grateful for in your life. But sometimes, what your soul needs is nourishment from looking at the brighter side of life.

A little caveat: this isn’t about some toxic positivity stuff that gurus shove down your throat. We’re not dismissing the fact that there are things that happen to you that can make you feel horrible. In reality, not everything that happens to you is your fault. But the only thing that you can influence is how you respond to circumstances. And one such way to do that is by practicing gratitude. Cool? Cool.

Keep A Gratitude Journal

1 Thessalonians 5:18 of the Bible says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” You can do that by keeping a gratitude journal. This is where you log everything that happens to you on a given day. And it’s where you reflect on the blessings you received because of it.

Now, whether you had a great day or a horrible one doesn’t matter. Log it in. Why? Because this is how you’ll learn from the day. Writing down your day makes sure that you’re getting something from your day, not just getting through the day.

Honestly speaking, this has been one of my regrets. I’ve had a lot of unrecorded experiences that I wish I wrote somewhere. However, I know that it isn’t too late to start; and that’s true for you, too.

You don’t have to write a whole page if you don’t want to. Heck, you don’t even have to write a couple of paragraphs. You can jot down bullet points of what happened during your day and what you can be thankful for about it. Especially if you’re lazy (like me) and don’t want to write long-ass paragraphs. The important thing is to have it recorded.

Ask Better Questions

When you ask yourself questions, you prime your brain to look for answers. The very act of thinking is all about asking questions and looking for answers. As Tony Robbins says, “The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.”

When you wake up each morning, or you’re laying on your bed worrying, ask these questions. After all, it’s more productive and beneficial to your mental wellness when you set yourself up for a positive mental frame.

  • What problems and challenges have I overcome?
  • What things in my life do I value the most?
  • Who are the people that bring me joy?
  • What skills do I possess that I can do better than most people I know?
  • What made my day?

You don’t have to ask all these questions if you don’t want to; one or two of them are enough. What I do recommend, however, is writing your answers inside your gratitude journal.

Anchor Gratitude On A Physical Thing

Anchoring is an effective way of reminding yourself of the things you can be thankful for in life. So what is anchoring? It’s associating a ‘thing’ to an emotional state. For example, when you hear old music, it makes you feel nostalgic, right? Or when you see babies, they make you feel warm inside. Of course, if you don’t like babies, seeing them immediately puts you in an uncomfortable emotional state.

Now, you can apply that to practicing gratitude. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a physical object that when you see it, reminds you to be grateful. It doesn’t matter what it is or whether it’s big or small. Just choose.
  2. Next, choose an emotional state that you want to associate with that object. In this case, it’s gratitude.
  3. Third, every time you see that ‘thing’, ask yourself about the things you want to be grateful for. Make a mental list of everything you can be thankful for right at that moment.
  4. After that, allow the emotions to fill your entire body. For this activity, allow yourself to feel grateful right now.
  5. Lastly, go back to step 3.

The main thing you must remember here is consistency. The more you do this, the easier it gets. It’s important to note that there will be a certain point in the future when you see the object, you’ll be grateful instantly.

Express Your Gratitude

“…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” – Matthew 12:34

Expressing your gratitude is one healthy way I know to practice being grateful. Not only do you think about it, but you also put your gratitude into action when you do this. As a result, gratitude gets wired into your brain faster.

“Thank You” is a 2-word phrase you don’t often hear. But when you do, it can very well make up your day.

Volunteer For A Cause You Care About

We all have an innate desire to serve and care for something. Some care for only themselves, others for the ones they love. And some push for a cause they believe in with every fiber of their being. Examples of these causes are:

  • Eradication of Poverty
  • Education
  • Preservation of Nature
  • Ending Hunger
  • Advocating for Peace
  • Raising Awareness and Dispelling Myths on Diseases

When you volunteer for something you care about, you will inevitably feel like you’re contributing to something greater than yourself. That’s true. Because sometimes, showing gratitude means holding out your hand for someone who can benefit from what you have.

Write A Letter Of Gratitude For Someone You Think Is Under-Appreciated

This could by far, be the hardest exercise listed in this article. Why? Because it takes the willingness to be vulnerable to do this. Truth be told, it takes strength to open yourself up for vulnerabilities. But the benefits are well worth it. A case in point was the experiment by Dr. Martin Selgiman I shared earlier.

Before you start writing a letter down or hammering your keyboard to type an appreciation email, let’s do a simple exercise. Imagine one fateful day that you’re having one of the worst days of your week. Things aren’t going as planned. And you received news that gets under your nerve. Worse, you feel unappreciated by those people around you – even when all you think about is them.

Just when you’re about to explode, all of a sudden you see a letter on your table with your name on it. You read it and it’s from the most special person in your life, appreciating you for everything you’ve done. How would you feel about it?

Great, right? Now you can give that gift to someone without spending a single cent from your pocket. How? By writing a gratitude letter to them. Or if you’re more comfortable with tech, writing an email.

See The Seeds Of Growth In Each Mistake

Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” The Bible (James 1:2-3) agrees by saying, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

For each mistake that you and I make, there’s either a lesson you can learn or a burden you must bear. Choosing the former can lead to a more uplifting life. The latter, however, can lead to a heavy, exhausting life.

Final Thoughts On How To Practice Gratitude

What you read are simple yet powerful enough exercises to improve the quality of your life. Gratitude is one of the most empowering, exhilarating, and essential emotions you and I can enjoy. Thank you for reading this post!

Live an inspired life,

Jeric Timbang