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Practicing Gratitude

By CFI Predoctoral Fellow Carina Chen, M.S.Ed.

There is no better time of year than around Thanksgiving to start practicing gratitude. Gratitude is a word that we often hear thrown around at home, at school, or even in the media, but did you know the benefits of gratitude span beyond just feeling grateful in the moment? Research has actually shown that practicing gratitude helps your mental and physical wellbeing by strengthening relationships, bolstering optimism, decreasing depression, improving your immune system, and lowering blood pressure (Headspace, N.D.). 

Here are five small acts of gratitude to try incorporating into your routine.

1. Take a mindful moment and notice things around you. It is easy to get caught up in all of the tasks that we need to do. We are so often running place-to-place, class-to-class, meeting-to-meeting, that it is difficult for us to pause and just notice how many amazing things surround us. Next time you find yourself scrolling through your endless mental to-do list while you are on the way to your next appointment, pause. This can look like observing the way the trees are blowing in the wind if you are near some greenery or marveling at how your technology brings messages from across the world! We live in a pretty incredible world. What if we take the next five minutes to really absorb it together?

2. Try this gratitude meditation. Maybe mindfulness and meditation is difficult for you. Sustaining focus for a prolonged amount of time without any guidance is not for everyone, and that’s okay! If you are keen to try a free guided 10-minute gratitude meditation, check out this link provided by Headspace: 

3. Write down one thing that you are grateful for. Sometimes, the idea of starting an entire journal geared towards gratitude can feel daunting. There will inevitably be days when we are not feeling so grateful, and that’s okay! Whether you write down one thing that you’re grateful for everyday, every month, or just once per year, it’s one small step that you can take toward integrating a moment of gratitude into your life.

4. Share your gratitude. One of the most memorable text messages I have ever received was from a friend. It was New Years Eve and in her message, she shared that her friends had a tradition of writing down things they were grateful for over the past year. This year, she wrote, I was grateful for your friendship. This is not to say your expression of gratitude must be sent via text message, but if there is someone you are feeling especially grateful for, try letting them know. Send them a note, let them know in conversation, post a photo to social media! Whatever the format, sharing gratitude is one of the best ways to brighten someone else’s day (and yours, too).

5. Practice gratitude toward yourself. We have just spent the last four tips finding ways to help you notice, acknowledge, and express gratitude toward the people and things around you. Let’s end these tips by coming back to you. Look at everything you do to help sustain yourself! The way you move your body to maintain your physical health, the way you fuel yourself to maintain your energy, the way you take moments to rest to maintain your mental health. These are just a few ways that you are taking care of yourself, whether you are conscious of it or not. The next time you catch your reflection in the mirror, say a little “thank you” to yourself.

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