American Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. This Thursday families and friends will be gathering together to eat, laugh, eat, watch football, and eat. And some of them might even stop to think about what they’re thankful for and practice a moment of gratitude.

Attitude of Gratitude: Build a practice that makes you be happier and live longer

Unfortunately, though, a lot of them won’t. In fact, according to one poll, 3 in 5 Americans would rather do something else than think about what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving. Huh?

Despite that only this one day a year is called Thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only day we should consider what we’re grateful for in our lives. Gratefulness has be linked to so many benefits – including overcoming some of that stress that is brought on by the holidays themselves.

In fact, developing a gratitude practice that fits your life, is a habit worth creating. While it might seem pointless or a lot of work at the beginning, it can pay off in unbelievable dividends.

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BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE

There are a multitude of benefits that come from practicing gratitude. And these aren’t just these anecdotal and hearsay – scientists have been studying gratitude for awhile now.

Happiness

Decreases stress and anxiety

  • Even though one of the reasons people stated that they didn’t practice gratitude was because they were stressed – doing so will actually help tame your stress and anxiety

Relationships

Reduces negative emotions

– A gratitude practice can help you be less materialistic and reduce feelings of envy, resentment, frustration, and regret.

Sleep

  • If you’re struggling with your sleep then developing a gratitude practice you do right before bed may actually help you sleep better.

Willpower and decision making

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Ethics

  • Being grateful not only makes you more altruistic, ethical, helpful and kind – it has the same effect on the person to whom you show your gratitude.

Self Esteem

  • Gratitude has been shown to increase your self esteem

Life expectancy

– Practicing gratitude is linked to living a longer life

DEVELOPING A PRACTICE

In less time than it takes to microwave frozen lasagna, you can complete your gratefulness practice. And while most of us will be doing so for the laundry list of benefits that I’ve stated above, make sure that you don’t keep your gratitude to yourself.

One of the most important things about gratitude is the effect that it has on our relationships. People that are on the receiving end of your thanks benefit as much as you do. And by keeping up these two way street of altruism and gratitude you will build stronger bonds with those around you.

Try incorporating a couple of the below ideas into your day. Tweak your practice until it fits into your life and before you know it, it will be a habit. You’ll go from seeing everything that’s wrong to spending time just looking for things to be grateful about.

Attitude of Gratitude: Build a practice that makes you be happier and live longer

Gratitude Journal

This is the big recommendation that you get at the end of most gratitude posts – and with good reason. Journaling for 15 minutes right before bed can help you sleep better and longer. Additionally having a specific place where you write your thankful fors will help you create a stronger habit.

However, this isn’t the only way to have a gratitude practice. If this fits into your life, great! If not, read on.

Send thank you notes

The art of letter writing is fading in our society. Because of this, it makes receiving a hand written note that much more special.

Even if you don’t go out and get yourself an expensive greeting card that comes with gold crown stickers, you can still brighten someones day. Scribbling a kind note on a post it note and sticking it to a coworkers desk can bring about the same feelings.

Challenge yourself to write at least one thank you note a week – big or small. And if you can’t hand write it, an email will work just as well.

Create a visual

There is much fuss in the personal development space about the power of vision boards. They essentially help you keep your eye on the prize. However, this visual concept can be used for gratitude as well.

Create a board with some of the many things that you are grateful for in your life and display it prominently. It will give you something to look at when you’re feeling down and help you get your mindset back on track.

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Put it in a jar

Everyone’s heard of a swear jar – but how about a gratitude jar? And instead of putting in money, write a little note about what your thankful for in that moment. It’s as easy as getting an old vase or mason jar and a stack of notecards. Then when you’re feeling low you can pull out the cards to read to remind yourself of all the good things in your life.

Put it on the calendar

Let’s face it our days are frequently jam packed with activities. But one thing we do a lot is check our calendars. If you don’t have one already, get yourself a wall calendar or a giant calendar on a blotter and write in one thing you’re thankful for at the end of the day.

At the end of the month you’ll have a calendar full of all the awesome people and events in your life. Who wouldn’t want to see that full calendar every day?

Mindfulness

If you’ve taken my advice and developed a mindfulness practice, why not incorporate gratitude into that. While you’re noticing all the things around you, take a minute – seriously even 60 seconds is enough – and notice what you have to be grateful for right now. To reinforce the feeling try saying it out loud – even better if you say it out loud to the person you’re thankful for in the first place.

Involve someone else

Find someone else that wants to develop a habit too. A spouse, friend, or family member might want to get in on the action. This is also a great habit to teach your kids. You can certainly work it into your family dinner if that works for you, but it’s also something you can talk about as your tucking them in at night. Instead of asking “how was your day?” you can ask “what’s something you were grateful for today?”

And we all know that kids learn from our example, so they will likely ask you the same question. Think of it as gratitude accountability built in to your daily life.

A PROPER THANK YOU

As hard as it is to admit, we probably don’t say thank you enough. And when we do it’s probably a quick “hey, thanks”. While something is better than nothing, if you really want to knock it out of the park try the steps below.

  1. Be specific about your thank you. Just thanking an employee for “their service” doesn’t hold a lot of weight. Again, better than nothing, but it’s not personal. Find something specific that they went out of their way to do for you, and acknowledge them for that.
  2. Tell them that you saw what they did and know that it took extra effort on their part to help you. This helps them feel seen for the work that they did to help you.
  3. Tell them what it meant to you. This part is important, but it’s not as important as the above steps. I say that because a thank you can go awry if it’s only focused on how the person’s help made you feel. If you only focus on the fact that the fact that the neighbor making dinner when you were sick made you feel better, it won’t have the same effect on them as if you acknowledged that she went out of her way to make you dinner AND it made you feel better.

If you have a favorite way to practice gratitude, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

TL;DR Developing a gratitude practice is an excellent way to make you happier, less stressed, and improve your relationships. It doesn’t have to take a long time – even 60 seconds of thinking about what you’re grateful for can have an impact.

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