Practicing gratitude is one of the easiest ways to boost your own happiness and life satisfaction. Studies conclusively show that in the short term, expressing gratitude can make you feel better, relieving your anxiety and making you feel good about yourself. In the long term, if you practice gratitude regularly, you can positively and permanently change your brain, setting yourself up for more happiness and a greater sense of wellbeing.
The question is, what are the best ways to practice gratitude?
Examine Your View of Life
First, take the time to reexamine your view of life. Life is an easy thing to take for granted. If you haven’t spent much time thinking about your own mortality, it’s tempting to implicitly assume that life goes on forever – or that you’ll easily make it into your 90s. But the truth is that life is both fragile and precious, and it could easily be taken from you.
For example, fatal car accidents are frighteningly common. Even if you’re paying close attention to your surroundings on the road and you have a vehicle with all the latest safety equipment, a speeding drunk driver could blindside you and immediately end your life. You could also die at almost any moment from a freak accident or the sudden onset of a health issue – like a brain aneurysm.
This is an unpleasant topic to think about and talk about, but it opens your eyes to help you realize just how precious life is. When you understand that it could disappear at any moment, you grow to appreciate every moment of life that you have.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
If you’re looking for a more concrete strategy, consider keeping a gratitude journal. Functioning much like a normal journal, this document will serve as a place for you to record specific thoughts of gratitude, either as they occur to you or on a fixed schedule.
Keeping to a fixed schedule can help you find gratitude when you need it the most. For example, you can commit to writing a new entry in your gratitude journal every day. Even during your worst days, you can challenge yourself to find 3 to 5 things that went well or a handful of things you’re profoundly grateful for in your life.
The very act of writing these concepts of gratitude down will make you feel better. Later on, if you’re experiencing a particularly hard day or rough times in your life, you can flip through the pages of your previous entries and review some of the things that have made you grateful in the past.
Realize How Lucky You Are
One effective gratitude exercise is to take a moment to reflect and realize how lucky you are. For example, if you’re reading this article, you probably have internet access. Currently, just 59.5 percent of the global population has reliable internet access. The next time you’re yelling at your Wi-Fi router because you’re experiencing delays or an unsteady connection, remember that more than 40 percent of the world has no internet whatsoever.
It’s also eye-opening to think about the rate of poverty in the world. Around the world, about 689 million people live on less than $1.90 per day. And 43.6 percent of the population lives on less than $5.50 per day, or around $2,000 per year. Suddenly, your salary looks much more impressive than it did before.
Find the Silver Lining
It’s also effective to practice gratitude by finding the “silver lining” in bad things that happen to you and unpleasant experiences of everyday life. For example, nobody likes to be stuck in traffic. But if you’re stuck in your car, you can take the extra time to listen to your favorite podcast or make progress in a cool audiobook you started.
If you’re involved in a car accident, but you’re relatively unhurt, try to focus on the fact that you escaped unscathed – rather than balking at the inconvenience of dealing with paperwork associated with the accident.
Share Gratitude With Others
Gratitude is contagious. If the people around you are consistently expressing gratitude and showing how much appreciation they have for life, you’ll be much more likely to exhibit gratitude in your own life. The reverse is also true; the more verbal you are with your gratitude, the more grateful the other people in your life will be as well. Try to be open and share your gratitude with others whenever possible.
Expressing gratitude may feel awkward or out of character if you’re not used to doing it. But after a few iterations, it will begin to come naturally to you. You’ll feel an immediate sense of relief and positivity when you practice it, and if you practice it consistently, you’ll eventually notice a major positive change in your overall sense of wellbeing.