It’s November, which means one thing—turkey. Because we can’t dedicate an entire month of content to turkey (though don’t tempt us), we decided to go with another relevant theme. Yes, it’s gratitude, and while we’ve covered the topic before, we’re going in-depth this time around. In the next few weeks, we’ll show you how to practice gratitude, how to cultivate the feeling of gratitude in your days, different and creative ways to express those feelings, and a gratitude meditation to savor that feeling all season—and year—long.
But first, we thought we’d give you a little gratitude crash course, in case you need a reminder of the basics. Let’s take a quick look at gratitude 101: what it is, why it’s totally worth it to build the habit, tools that make it easy, and a few quick ways to practice gratitude this week. Up for the challenge? We know you are. And so are we.
Wait, What is Gratitude Again?
This one’s simple, even though you’ll find different gratitude definitions depending on the research and experts you consult. We’re big on using Robert Emmons’ definition, primarily because he’s the father of gratitude. And we can’t think of a better title if we tried. Emmons’ definition?
[Gratitude is] a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”
We’ll add an observation by Sonja Lyubomirsky that gratitude is a type of mindfulness. You think about the things in your life that you really appreciate, which means all of your focus goes to those things. Not enough room in your brain for anything else.
There’s one key component to gratitude that we haven’t talked about and that’s the act of practicing it. You’re probably grateful for a lot in your world, but that doesn’t mean you’re practicing gratitude. It just means you have things to be grateful for that need attention. In order to fully grasp the gratitude benefits, you need to savor those things. Take time to reflect on them. Why are you so grateful for them? What have they helped you do? What have you learned from them? Why would your life be different without them?
Now you’re getting somewhere.
Why It’s Important to Practice Gratitude
Okay, so we know what gratitude is. Let’s quickly review some of the benefits of gratitude so we all remember why this habit is so critical.
- Gratitude is a major happiness booster. In studies, people who take time to express gratitude consistently report being happier than they were prior to undertaking a gratitude practice.
- Gratitude can boost other good feelings too, like contentment, hope, and overall well-being.
- Expressing gratitude helps you build new relationships, according to a 2014 study.
- Gratitude is good for both your mental and physical health. For example, a 2011 study found that people who expressed gratitude prior to bed slept better than those who didn’t think on their thanks.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Tools to Get You Into the Gratitude Groove
So obviously expressing gratitude works. But there’s a caveat here: In order to reap those benefits of gratitude, you need to turn it into something repeatable and automatic. Just like you would for any other habit. And we all know how difficult that can be.
Aside from revisiting our habit-building basics, there are some tools you can use to get your gratitude streak going strong. Here are a few to try:
1. Panda Planner
Yes, we’re affiliated with the team at Panda Planner. But that’s sort of beside the point here. Panda Planner was helping us practice gratitude long before everyone else jumped on board. How? By building it into a part of your morning routine. Each morning, you jot down three things you’re thankful for before the hectic pace of your day pulls you away. And then you do it again tomorrow.
All you have to do is follow the Panda Planner template, and in no time, gratitude is just a regular part of your day. Easy, right?
2. My Gratitude Journal
Or maybe you’re more of an app person. That’s where My Gratitude Journal comes in.
My Gratitude Journal is an app that helps you build the gratitude habit. How? With reminders and rewards, of course. You input the top five things you’re grateful for every day, build a habit, and reap both the tangible in-app rewards and the other ones too. Like increased happiness. It’s only for iOS, but it’s worth a download if you’re serious about joining the gratitude movement.
Challenge: Two Quick Ways to Practice Gratitude This Week
We’ll be back next week to talk about how to cultivate that feeling of gratitude and later this month, to teach you how to show gratitude to yourself and others. But in the meantime, we leave you with this: Challenge yourself to practice gratitude at least two times in the upcoming week.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, though go with whatever feels right for you. Here are two research-backed ideas.
1. Make a list
This is probably the easiest way to kick off the gratitude habit. Merely make a list of all of the things you’re grateful for that day or moment. Feel like too much? Okay, focus on just three things, which research shows, works just fine.
Try it at either the end or the beginning of each day to make it easier to build into a habit.
Remember that they can be minuscule things, like the fact that your coffee is hot or you put on matching socks this morning. All of it counts.
2. Write a letter
If you’re already a seasoned gratitude lister, then you can proceed to phase two: the gratitude letter.
Write a letter to someone in your life who you feel you haven’t thanked fully. Get detailed. Dig deep. For an even bigger boost, send it to the person or better yet, read it to them. This is a proven way to increase happiness. And it just feels good.
To sum it all up
This November, set your sights on gratitude and learn how to make it a habit in our four-part series. After all, the more you practice gratitude, the more benefits you’ll feel. And those benefits can be life-changing. We can’t wait to get grateful with you.
Your turn: How do you practice gratitude? Tell us your favorite way to give thanks in the comments below.
Author: Chelsey Taylor
Chelsey likes words, especially adjectives, and has been perfecting her perfectionism since infancy. She’s an endorphin-gatherer, top-knot connoisseur, and content manager at Panda Planner.