November has been dubbed National Gratitude Month I have loved seeing gratitude quotes throughout the month on social media as well as friends’ daily posts and comments of things they are grateful for.
As November comes to a close, I’d like to make a case for extending this attitude of gratitude and making it a lifetime, daily habit.
A recent Harvard Mental Health Letter titled “In Praise of Gratitude” states, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.”
That’s a lot of positive benefit for something that seems so simple to do. With the promise of greater happiness, improved health, better relationships and greater ability to deal with challenges, why does there need to be a “National Gratitude” month to focus on gratitude?
Simple doesn’t mean easy. The reality is that life is busy, and gratitude requires conscious awareness and effort. Like any good practice, like brushing and flossing your teeth, you reap the benefits when you make it a habit.
Here are six practices to help you make gratitude a habit.
1. Be present. Make a conscious effort to notice the good throughout the day.
2. Don’t compare yourself with others. Rather than comparing your weaknesses with others' strengths, notice and express gratitude for your own strengths.
3. Write it down. At the end of the day, write down three positive things from the day. Feel the positive emotions associated with feeling thankful.
4. Say thank you. When someone does something nice for you, make a point to say thank you, whether a verbal “thank you,” or a written note.
5. Reframe negative experiences. When something doesn’t go according to plan, rather than beating yourself up or dwelling on the negative, look for the potential good in the situation. You may experience frustration with yourself, friends or family members, but weathering storms can create cherished memories when you choose to look for a positive lesson to be learned or find the humor in situations outside your control.
6. Be consistent. Make these practices a way of life. Where possible, have a regular routine around these habits with consistent places and times. For example, you could keep your journal or planner next to your bed, and before going to bed each night, write down three positive things from the day. You could do an “End of Week Review” once a week and write down your successes, lessons you’ve learned and skills you have developed. Or perhaps you could sit at your kitchen table and write a thank you note on Sundays after lunch.
It’s not always easy to express gratitude, especially when you are experiencing dark days. Research shows that expressing gratitude can help you through a hard time. Having a gratitude partner can be helpful in creating a habit of gratitude when you don’t feel like it. Set a time of day to call or text one another something you are grateful for.
Research has shown that doing one super, powerful habit regularly helps you feel happier, have better relationships, better health and a more positive outlook. Expressing gratitude. Watch your life improve as you incorporate gratitude habits into your life, not just this month, but every day.