Why Express Gratitude?
With all the hubbub and chaos of life nowadays, it can be easy to forget about all of the little blessings we have in our lives. A great way to take a break from all the hustle and bustle is to exercise gratitude, which can have a very powerful impact on our lives.
By bringing attention to the pleasant aspects of our lives – even for just a few minutes a day – we can reflect on our outlook, reorient ourselves, and become more resilient. Gratitude also has many benefits, some of which may surprise you: gratitude can improve self-esteem, mood, sleep, relationships and decision-making skills; increase productivity, goal achievement and creativity; and finally it can lower stress – and even blood pressure!
Practicing gratitude doesn’t eliminate the struggles we experience, or magically make everything better. However it can help you process things better, and be more resilient in facing these difficult times. It’s okay to acknowledge & honour what you’re going through & feel your feelings, AND do what you need to do to cope & move forward. It doesn’t have to be either or… it can be both. Gratitude can soften a situation to be more neutral, elevate other positive feelings, rewrite the story, or shift the focus… but it doesn’t cancel difficult & challenging situations.
Practicing gratitude can often be easier said than done; so with that being said, let me show you my top 4 ways to help get you started!
My Top 4 Gratitude Exercises
1) Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journaling is one of the most popular ways to exercise gratitude, likely because it is also one of the easiest as well! To gratitude journal, write 3-5 things you are grateful for in a journal. They can be absolutely anything, as simple as being able to get a good night sleep or as deep as having certain people you love in your life. Think about your past day, past week, or past month – what has made you happy? Who was there for you? Who can you not imagine your life without? Brainstorm for a minute or two and jot them down.
If you like more structure, there are a few gratitude journals you could purchase.
2) Notes and Reminders
Simple visible notes are a great way to remind ourselves to be appreciative throughout our day. Try thinking about (or looking up) your favourite encouraging and reflective quotes, questions, and prompts that can act as daily reminders wherever you are. Whether it be a poster at home, a phone background, a desktop wallpaper, a reminder written on your mirror, or a note on your desk at work, the small cues in your everyday environment help prompt you to take a breath and think about the positives in your life.
You could also install an app on your phone that gives daily reminders.
3) The Gratitude Jar
Similar to gratitude journaling, for this exercise, you pick ONE thing you are grateful for and write them down. However, instead of writing in a journal, write the things you are grateful for onto notes, fold them up, and place them into a jar! Over time, the amount of notes in the jar increases and becomes a visual reminder for everything you are grateful for. In addition, when you are feeling down, you are able to pull out a note, take a peek at what you wrote about in the past, and reflect on what makes you happy or brings you joy!
4) Gratitude Prompts
Gratitude prompts are a great way to help you reflect on the wonderful things in your life, especially if you find it challenging to come up with ideas off the top of your head. Gratitude prompts are exactly what they sound like – questions or prompts that are meant to guide you and help get the ball rolling. They make it easier to integrate gratitude into your regular routine, especially if you are new to gratitude exercises. Download the free gratitude prompts handout at the bottom of this blog!
Though it can be intimidating at first, try slowly easing into different ways of expressing and reflecting on your gratitude. Start by doing an exercise once a week, then twice a week, then every other day. The goal of all these exercises is to slowly build them into daily habits and eventually help you change your perspective and adjust your ways of thinking into a more positively-focused one. By seeing the brighter side of day-to-day situations, finding the silver lining in everything, and looking at all the things and people you have in your life that you are grateful for, you are able to better appreciate everything that you have going for you and work towards a happier and healthier life.
To learn more and put some of these exercises into practice, enter your email to download our gratitude prompts handout below!
This blog was written with the help of UBC nutrition and dietetic students, Gilbert and Yasmin.
Mike Oppland: 13 Most Popular Gratitude Exercises & Activities (accessed February 16th, 2020). Available from: https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-exercises/
Nils Salzgeber: 29 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude You Don’t Want to Miss (accessed February 16th, 2020). Available from: https://www.njlifehacks.com/gratitude-benefits/
NutriFoodie: 5 steps to Start Loving Yourself Today with HAES (accessed March 25th, 2020). Available from: https://nutrifoodie.ca/2018/11/06/how-to-start-loving-your-size-and-yourself-today/
NutriFoodie: 5 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Quality and Bedtime Habits (accessed March 25th, 2020). Available from: https://nutrifoodie.ca/2019/01/24/5-tips-to-improve-your-sleep-quality-bedtime-habits/