This Thursday, at dinner tables across the country we will be sitting down to (over)indulge in turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. At our house, and maybe your’s as well, we go around the table reflecting on something we are grateful for. But why limit it to just one day a year?
Gratitude is good for us. And in case you need convincing, the scientific literature is full of evidence supporting physiological and psychological benefits of adopting a gratitude practice.
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons reveals that keeping a gratitude journal—regularly recording moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect from a regular gratitude practice:
- More positive emotions
- Feel more alive
- Better Sleep
- More compassion and kindness
- Enhanced immunity
- Optimism for upcoming week
If you are prone to seasonal depression, colds and flus, or lack of motivation throughout the winter, this is a practice worth implementing. Even if the shorter, darker days of winter don't get you down, who couldn’t use a little more compassion and kindness or joie de vie?
Ready to start a gratitude practice? Here’s what to do:
Every evening jot down one experience in your day for which you felt gratitude.
Rather than writing the same thing daily i.e. “I am grateful for my family,” be on the lookout for a unique experience each day. i.e. “My husband started dinner without being asked,” or “The sun was shining while I walked to work.”
Attuning to moments like that in your day will make you more mindful and on the lookout for positive experiences in your everyday life. Subtle experiences like the sun shining or the smell of a great cup of coffee is truly enjoyed, rather than quickly dismissed or entirely disregarded. Imagine how much more positive your mood might be if you were primed to anticipate positive experiences rather than move through the day on autopilot.
As daily gratitude journaling becomes a habit, try enhancing your practice by identifying the positive side, or silver lining, of a seemingly negative experience. For example, when the temperature drops (seemingly negative experience), I am grateful for the opportunity to sit by the fire.
The literature shows that while regularly keeping a gratitude journal can have broad benefits, inconsistency or falling out of the habit can result in loss of benefits. It takes 28 days to create a habit. Commit to a gratitude practice from now until Christmas. This time of year there is so much to be grateful for.
Get yourself a nice journal, keep it by your bed, and record a moment of gratitude each night. By the time the New Year rolls around you’ll have created a powerful habit and be reaping the extensive benefits of mindfulness and gratitude.