Studies show practicing gratitude can help you live a healthier, happier life. Here are a few easy ways to cultivate a personal practice.
Want to feel happier? Improve your health? Sleep better? According to experts, practicing gratitude might be a good place to start.
Studies show that a gratitude practice — which can be as simple as writing what you’re grateful for in a journal — is linked to improved sleep, a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, and increased happiness, among other benefits. Gratitude can also help block negative emotions, like envy and resentment.
Even better? Creating your own gratitude practice is easy. Here are seven ideas to get you started.
This might be the easiest way to create a gratitude practice because you don’t need any materials to do it. Simply set aside time in your day to list three to five things you’re grateful for. Gratitudes can be as simple as, “I am grateful for today’s beautiful weather” or as specific as “I’m grateful I was able to see my sister this weekend.” Keep it simple and don’t overthink it.
Keep a blank notebook next to your bed or on a desk. Every day, spend five minutes listing your gratitudes. Start each statement with, “I am grateful for …” Then fill in the blank. Decide how many gratitudes you want to list each day. Maybe you start with two and work up to 10. If you’re craving a little more variety with your practice, consider purchasing a gratitude journal with daily prompts.
Not big on journaling? Try meditating. Set a timer for five minutes and focus on what you’re grateful for — a sunny day, a fun work project, a roof over your head, the kindness of a stranger. Really lean into whatever feelings come up for you, whether it’s excitement, contentment, or satisfaction. Play out the scenes that fill you with gratitude. For instance, maybe you relished the crisp air on your daily walk. Replay that scene — and the feelings it gave you — in your head. If you’re not feeling the power of your own imagination, try a guided meditation. There are plenty online.
Spread good vibes and brighten a friend or loved one’s day by writing to them. Tell them why you are grateful to have them in your life. Not sure what to say? Share a specific memory that made you happy or simply tell them their companionship brings you a lot of joy. To stay consistent with your practice, consider purchasing a set of stationery and stamps. Keep them at your desk or by your nightstand for easy access.
Fun fact: you need to update your gratitude list every day. Maybe you feel consistently grateful that you have a job you love. Or, that you have a cozy home. Or, that your cat is super cuddly. Write your favorite gratitudes on a few sticky notes and place them around your home where you can see them — on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, or your computer, for example. Every time you see these notes, take a pause to feel grateful for what you already have.
Read more: How Positivity Can Change What You See
Gratitude is best when shared, right? Ask a friend whether they’d be willing to become your gratitude partner. The two of you can find a daily or weekly cadence for sharing your gratitudes — be it by text, phone, or email. Or, schedule a standing walk or coffee hangout that begins with telling each other what you’re both feeling grateful for that day. Cheesy? No way! Not when you both reap the benefits of a consistent gratitude practice.
Consider the timing of your gratitude practice. No matter your method, starting or ending your day on a positive note can set you up for a good day. Make the habit a no-brainer by keeping whatever tools you need — a box of blank letters, a notebook, a journal — next to your bed or your desk. Then, decide how much time you want to spend on your practice. Maybe you only have three minutes in the morning. Or 10 minutes before bed. Determining what your practice looks like makes it easier to stick with it every day.