So, you've read about the importance of gratitude and are ready to incorporate it into your life. But where do you start? And how do you actually do it? Great questions!
What is a gratitude practice?
Gratitude practice, in its most basic form, is a way of life. It’s a way of being in the world and in the present moment. It can be as simple as taking time each day to reflect on what you are grateful for—or it can be a more involved process that involves writing down your feelings and thoughts about a particular topic or experience.
When I talk about gratitude practices, I mean those things that you do daily (or weekly) to change your relationship with yourself and others so that instead of feeling lonely or disappointed with life circumstances, both good and bad ones become an opportunity for growth.
Gratitude practice is not the same as toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity is a lie—it’s pretending that everything will be okay, even when it might not be. Practicing gratitude allows you to acknowledge that there are things you don’t have control over, but still choosing to hold onto hope and gratitude anyway.
It’s about being present and mindful of what you have in your life, rather than focusing on the things that you don’t. It’s about giving yourself permission to sit with sadness, fear, and anger—even if that means feeling those emotions for longer than usual.
Benefits of practicing gratitude.
Gratitude can help you sleep better, enhance your mood, improve your health, build stronger relationships and increase your overall well-being.
- Gratitude is associated with improved sleep quality. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that adults who kept daily gratitude journals slept longer and more soundly than those who kept journals about their stressors or other negative emotions. The gratitude group also had fewer signs of depression when compared to the other groups at the end of the study period.
- Gratitude can boost your mood. In a 2013 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers found that people who were able to stay positive during an experiment were more likely to rate themselves as happier than those who weren't able to remain positive throughout all trials of testing their emotions over several weeks' time.
- Gratitude improves relationships because it makes you more patient and considerate toward others. A study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude helped people feel more connected to others, which led them to experience more positive interactions with their social networks.
How to start a gratitude practice.
A gratitude practice is any time and space you set aside to focus on what you’re grateful for. By nature, it can be a very personal thing—the simple act of writing down three things that you appreciate in the world around you, then tucking away your list for safekeeping.
However, there are ways to share your experience with others as well. Perhaps at the end of each day (or week), you could write an anonymous thank-you note to someone who has made an impact on your life—a teacher from high school or college who changed how you saw yourself, perhaps; or maybe a family member who has always been there for support when times were tough.
How to use crystals in your gratitude practice.
Having crystals in your environment is like having an extra helping hand: they will enhance whatever you’re doing and help bring more positive energy into your life. Crystals are considered “healing stones” because they absorb and reflect energy that can be used for healing purposes—including healing yourself!
To start using crystals in a gratitude practice, pick out one or two items with which you want to work.
Hold the crystals in your hands, keeping them close to your heart as you meditate. Focus on what it feels like to have them in your hands and what they look like. Imagine that each crystal has a unique vibration or frequency, and then think about how this vibration can be used for healing purposes.
For example, if you’re holding a rose quartz crystal, think about how its pink hue indicates the presence of love and compassion. Imagine that this energy is helping to heal your heart chakra, which is associated with feelings of love and trust in yourself and others.
When you’re ready, open your eyes and put the crystals down on a table. Sit in silence for a few minutes as you reflect on what you just experienced.
Gratitude practice is a simple but powerful way to bring more joy and meaning into your life. It’s an easy way to shift your mindset from one of scarcity and fear, to one of abundance, peace and generosity.
And it doesn't have to be complicated! When you practice gratitude on a daily basis, you will find that it becomes easier to recognize the many blessings in your life that often go unnoticed.
Nursing Students’ Experiences of Gratitude Journaling during the COVID-19 Pandemic[*]
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain[*]
Giving thanks can make you happier[*]
Practicing gratitude can have profound health benefits, USC experts say[*]
Gratitude and Well Being[*]
Research on Self-Esteem and Substance Use[*]
Trying to be happier really can work: Two experimental studies.[*]