Giving thanks is life-affirming. It’s also remarkably beneficial for your health and wellbeing. Despite the ambiguity that surrounds our understanding of “the First Thanksgiving”, it is a blessing that our nation continues to celebrate a holiday that reminds us how important it is to practice gratitude. But we could all benefit greatly from giving thanks more often than one day a year. Here are 10 simple ways to bring gratitude into your everyday life.
1. Give Thanks at Meals
Mealtime is a wonderful opportunity to remember what makes you feel thankful. Anytime you sit down to a meal, take a moment to invite everyone to say one thing they’re grateful for. Even if you eat a meal alone, you can take a moment to give thanks.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Take time to write down at least three things you’re thankful for every day. You may want to keep a specific journal just for this purpose. Over time, you’ll be able to go back and look at how things have changed over the months and years — through the lens of gratitude.
3. Share the Love
Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner, or friend something you appreciate about them every day. It can be as simple as recognizing something nice they’ve done for you, noticing a characteristic that makes them special, or giving them a compliment.
Something else you can do is to make it a nightly routine to share a high point of the day with another person. For an extra challenge, try turning a low of the day into a high by thinking about what you learned from the experience or something good that came out of it. Practicing the Ignatian Examen Prayer is a great tool for this!
Studies have shown that practicing daily prayer can positively change our brain chemistry, making us more compassionate toward others and better able to cope with stress. Use “Give Us This Day” or other daily prayer tools when you find you need inspiration.
If you’re new to prayer, join a “Growing Our Friendship with Jesus” series at Holy Spirit Church. With such a variety of prayer methods to choose from, surely one will be the right fit for you!
Be Kind to Yourself
Showing gratitude toward yourself is important too! Be thankful for everything your body and mind do for you. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can also improve your self-care. Listening for God’s voice of love for you can help you name specific gifts you have to share. Journal these gifts or write them on sticky notes and place them somewhere you can see them each morning. Once we recognize our gifts, we feel more generous in sharing them with others.
Share Gratitude Cards with Others
This practice is a simple exercise done in the company of others, no matter how big or small the group is. All you need is one notecard per person. At a table, have each person write the name of the person to their left on the top of their card. Underneath their name, they will then write one thing they are thankful for about that person. The cards are then each passed one person to the right, so the next person can add something to the list. Once all of the cards have made their way around the table, each person will end with their own card. It can be fun to take turns reading everyone’s thankful list and sharing the love.
Create a Vision Board
Vision boards are like collages. They can increase feelings of gratitude. One way to approach a vision board is by thinking about your ideal life and things you’d like to accomplish, like where you want to live or what career you’d like to have. Another approach is to make a vision board that’s all about the people and things you’re grateful for already having. This could include family and friends, accomplishments, blessings, and positive quotes. Hang your vision board somewhere you can look at it every day as a reminder of the things that make you feel grateful for both today and the future.
Fill a Gratitude Jar
A gratitude jar can be filled and then reflected on at the end of the year or during times when you need a reminder of all the good things in your life. Whenever something positive happens, or you want to acknowledge something you’re thankful for, write it down and put it in a jar. You may be surprised at how quickly it fills up.
Go for a Gratitude Walk
In today’s busy world, sometimes we forget to take a moment and enjoy the beautiful things God’s Creation offers us every day. Nature can actually relieve stress and support mental health. These effects have been observed when people interact with any kind of outdoor green space, from lush forests to local soccer fields.
Make a conscious effort to escape to the outdoors, whether it’s for a few minutes on your lunch break or enjoying nature for an entire weekend. Go on a walk, observe and pay attention to everything around you, and thank God for the things you’re seeing and experiencing. Practice being grateful for the life you have and this amazing planet we live on.
Write Thank-You Notes
When you express gratitude for others, you can improve more than your own mood. Research shows that thanking others is good for your mental health and helps you have a more positive outlook on life. Furthermore, we often underestimate how good the recipients of a thank-you note actually feel when they receive it.
Think about people in your life who have made a positive impact. This could be a close friend, a waiter at a restaurant, a cashier at the grocery store, your child’s teacher — or even a spouse. Write a thank you note and send it off into the world to brighten someone’s day.
The many challenges of the world give us enough reasons to be worried and disappointed. When you consciously choose to give thanks, you can change your own life and the lives of those around you in positive ways.
Gratitude helps spread hope into the world. At Holy Spirit Parish, we’re grateful for you every day. Thank you for all you do to contribute to the sharing of Christ’s Gospel in your life, in our Church and in the world.