Four tips for adopting a grateful outlook
If you want to improve your mental and physical health but don’t have an empty spot in your schedule, we have good news. According to a growing body of research, people who consciously express gratitude not only report feeling happier, they enjoy more wellness, better sleep, higher self-esteem and much more. And best of all, working on gratitude doesn’t cost a thing or require a place on your calendar.
These four tips can get you invite more gratitude into your life:
1. Express Your Thanks Early and Often
Sharing our gratitude is a lot like giving out smiles. It doesn’t cost a thing and tends to come back on us two-fold. It’s incredible how much there is to appreciate when we start looking for opportunities to thank our family, our coworkers, and perfect strangers for all they do each day to make our day a bit easier.
Sure, all these same people do things every day that annoy or disappoint us. But prioritizing gratitude above correction has several benefits:
- You can focus on the positive, improving your attitude.
- Praise and thanks generally motivate us to do more of that thing.
- Getting lots of positive feedback from someone makes it easier to accept their critique with an open mind.
- Modeling gratitude can inspire others to do the same, setting off a ripple effect in your team or family.
- We’re all drawn to positive people, so your social circle is likely to grow deeper and broader.
2. Use Pockets of Downtime to Practice Thanks
We all have periods in our day when we’re left waiting, whether it’s in the carpool line, at the bus stop, or the DMV. Instead of pulling out your smartphone, try this mindfulness practice:
- Close your eyes, or let them go unfocused. If you’re in public, you can look down at your blank smartphone and no one will think twice.
- Visualize the people, experiences, objects, inventions, or events you’re thankful are a part of your life. These don’t all have to be big things. Sitting in a warm car with a seat heater is pretty amazing when you think about it.
- When your turn is up, be grateful the wait is over so quickly.
Bonus: if you have trouble relaxing into your stretches or yoga poses, use this time to practice the mindfulness exercise above. It’s a great way to get more “uplift” from your yoga practice and a good trick for slowing down through your stretching routine.
It won’t happen immediately, but daily practices like this have been shown to change our outlook in just a few weeks.
3. Jot it Down: Micro-journaling Your Gratitude
Keep a file on your phone (or a notebook in your nightstand) for journaling your gratitude. You can write down the things you thought about earlier in your mindfulness practice, or write additional thoughts. Either way, it’s a great way to be mindful, and it creates a record you can refer to when you need a mental reset.
Bonus: journaling your gratitude makes it a lot easier to write birthday cards, thank you notes, and letters of recommendation. You’ll already have a stockpile of specific thoughts to call on.
4. Flip the Script on Negative Thinking
When we’re working toward a goal—be it fitness, finance, or career—it’s easy to fall into the trap of only noticing the hiccups along the way.
Instead of stressing about the sore knee keeping you from that PR, make an effort reexamine the situation from another perspective:
- Thank yourself for everything you did to make each workout possible and appreciate how far you’ve come.
- Congratulate yourself for carving that time out of your schedule.
- Note the great weather that made today’s run more pleasant.
- Contemplate the miracles of modern running shoes, Tylenol, and muscle cream.
- Consider how lucky you are to have two strong legs and to live in a time and place where running is a luxury, not a survival tool.
- Thank your partner for their support and encouragement through your training.
I am so grateful you took the time to read this article. It means a lot that you’ve let us share our ideas.