How to Develop a Gratitude Practice for a Happier, Healthier Life

If you want more happiness in your life, learn how to develop a gratitude practice. It’s simple, free, and can have profound effects on your life.

How many times have you heard someone say, you should develop a gratitude practice? I know I’ve included it in my article on 5 things to do every day to be happy as well as in 5 morning practices for a balanced and productive day.

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There’s been so much research on the benefits of gratitude. It’s pretty hard to ignore, but I will admit that I haven’t had a serious gratitude practice. I’ve done it, here and there. But I’ve never made it a formal practice.

The last time I heard about the benefits of gratitude, the information somehow struck me in a different way. I was listening to Bob Proctor, who is amazing individual that everyone should read, and he said to commit to writing down 10 things, yes 10, that you’re grateful for, every day, as soon as you wake up. 

I’ve always done a mental gratitude practice. In the morning or in the evening before bed, I’d try and name 3 things to be grateful for. It was never written and I can’t say it was something I did every single day without fail.

In fact, I usually did my gratitude practice when I was feeling down or upset about something. I’d use it as a way to perk myself up to see that there were actually many good things going on in my life. I just needed to look for them. I still recommend this way of practicing, but I was curious to take things a step further.

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I wondered what would happen if I truly committed to a gratitude practice every day. Spoiler: great things happen with a regular gratitude practice.

Before we jump into all the benefits, let’s first talk about how to establish a gratitude practice.

How to Develop a Gratitude Practice 

As I mentioned, I used to just think about things to be grateful for whenever I remembered. Some days I’d forget. When I did remember, it would often be a reaction to a bad mood and I’d just be looking for gratitude to get me out.

Once I started a regular gratitude practice, I found the bad moods didn’t come as often. I learned to get ahead of the negativity curve, and start my own positive status quo.

Write It Out

I really recommend putting pen to paper to get the most out of starting a gratitude practice. It’s so much more powerful to write down what you’re grateful for as opposed to just thinking about it. And yeah, ditch the electronics for this. No one needs more screen time. 

I have a little notebook and pen on my bedside table. I practically graze my hand on the notebook after I hit my alarm so it’s pretty easy to remember to do it.

how to start a gratitude practice

I put the date at the top of the page and then just have a numbered list from 1 to 10 with a word or phrase next to each number.  

Each entry doesn’t have to be super long, but if you’re a freeform thinker and love journaling, then write as much as you like. If you’re already a little unsure if you can commit to starting a gratitude practice, then start with a simple list.

For advanced gratitude practitioners, you can take it a step further and write a note of thanks to someone in your life, sharing how much you appreciate them. You could even call a friend to express your gratitude. There are many people to be grateful for, and you don’t even need to know them.

When I started my gratitude practice, all of my yoga teachers, my mail carrier, and delivery people got an even heavier dose of verbal appreciation from me. The unseen trash people, farmers, and delivery people have also been getting silent praise as well.

Sit Quietly

If you can sit quietly for a few minutes after you create your gratitude list to soak it in, all the better.

starting a gratitude practice

Notice where the gratitude lives in your body. I’m gonna guess your heart is going to be all warm and tingly. Feel it and get even more grateful for the happy sensation.

Should a conflict arise later in the day causing tightness in your chest, try and tap back into that feel-good heart gratitude sensation. Hopefully that will cause the tightness to soften and you can reframe the situation and find something else to be grateful for.

Set the Tone for the Day

man meditating

Starting your day with a gratitude practice gets you off on the right foot and that’s why I recommend writing your list in the morning.

When the first thing you think of when you wake up is all the things you’re grateful for, instead of how much you hate your job, trust me, you’re going to have a different day. 

I found that throughout the day, I wanted to add to the list. After about a week, I found myself looking for more things to write down. And you know what? I was finding them….everywhere.

What to be Grateful For

If you’re thinking 10 things to be grateful for everyday seems like a lot, start small. Really small.

Ideally you’re waking up in a bed, with a structure over your head, and sheets, and blankets. You just nailed #1-4. Yes, those count.

One of the big shifts I noticed is how many things I take for granted….until something happens. For instance, I cut my pinky finger while whipping up a new recipe and it was catching on everything. Every time it caught, I’d think, dang, that little finger.  

After regularly doing this gratitude practice, my attention shifted to, I’m so happy that I have 9 working fingers. Why on earth would I spend any time and angst on one little scrape on such a small part of my body, but folks, this is what we do. This is how we live our lives!

We see the little scrape and start beating up the poor little pinkies of the world, instead of stepping back and seeing the bigger picture. I find when you can focus on things outside of your tiny bubble, you can realize how good you’ve got it.

how to be grateful

So start small with your gratitude list. Repeat the same items every day if you want. Soon though, you’ll begin seeing more and more wonderful things in your life. I know I wanted to add to my list at night or during the day as I discovered more to appreciate.

That’s the law of attraction at work right there. The more goodness you see, the more will find you. I’m going to need a bigger notebook. 

Share Your Gratitude Practice

Don’t believe me? I invite you to try this written gratitude practice for at least 14 days and see how you feel.

It really only takes a few minutes. It’s not going to hurt you. In fact, I do believe it can have profound effects on your life if you’re open.

Have a friend join you. Practice with your family at meal times. Commit to it and watch the changes come.

I talk about all of the benefits of gratitude in my next post, but I first wanted to get you set you up with the specifics on how to set up a gratitude practice. Then we’ll dive into the results of starting such a simple, but powerful daily exercise.

I’d love to hear your feedback if you’re just starting or are already doing a regular gratitude practice.

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