Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is key to having good mental health. Learn how to make space for gratitude and appreciate life’s big and little things.
Take a second to think about things in your life you’re thankful for. Right now, your mind is probably full of happy thoughts about your friends and family, perhaps your job and maybe even your pet. It’s easy to be grateful when you intentionally make the effort, but it’s harder to cultivate a spirit of appreciation that’s seamlessly threaded throughout your everyday life.
But there are many proven benefits to having an attitude of gratitude. Research shows that people who consciously choose gratitude have lower levels of cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for stress. Learning how to make space for gratitude takes time and dedication, but the reward is a life full of appreciation for the big and little things.
Practicing Mindfulness: Techniques to Heighten Awareness
For most people, actively becoming thankful and appreciative won’t happen by accident. It requires commitment to a new way of thinking, and one of the ways to achieve this is through practicing mindfulness.
From the moment you wake up, your mind is constantly running wild with thoughts on everything from your responsibilities at work to what you’re going to cook for dinner. Mindfulness encourages you to quiet those thoughts and replace them with an awareness of what’s happening in the current moment. Medicine professor and mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.”
One of the best things about mindfulness is that it’s a simple practice you can incorporate into your life without any special materials or tools. You can dedicate a special time and place for it, or you can simply start paying attention to your daily experiences and express your gratitude as you go about your day.
Learning How to Make Space for Gratitude by Finding Joy in the Little Things
Snagging the perfect parking spot. A kind stranger letting you pet their dog. Catching a glimpse of a stunning sunset. Every day is full of these little victories that most of us probably don’t think twice about. However, what would life look like if we intentionally cultivated appreciation for the little things? Doing so requires you to shift your perspective to see that the small moments in life are just as worth celebrating as the big ones.
One of the most underrated ways to experience almost instant joy is to step outside. Getting outdoors can offer you an escape from the routine of everyday life and remind you that there’s a whole world out there full of things to appreciate. A sunshiny day can make you feel grateful for warm weather, and a rainy day can help you appreciate the trees and plants that rely on the rain to grow. No matter the weather, you’re almost sure to find something in the great outdoors that brightens your day and fills you with a sense of gratitude.
Also, remember that you don’t have to wait for the “little things” to just happen. You can make an effort to invite these simple pleasures into your life. Make a stop at your favorite bakery on the way home to pick up a treat, or spend a cozy night enjoying a movie you love. These are small things you can do to find joy and appreciation in your everyday life.
Gratitude Journaling: Documenting Daily Moments of Appreciation
Journaling is a great way to memorialize your thoughts of gratitude. Writing down your appreciation in a gratitude journal has been proven to have a range of benefits, including increasing sleep quality by up to 25%, according to one study.
Unlike a regular diary where you write down your unfiltered thoughts and feelings, a gratitude journal is a space dedicated to capturing your appreciation for the everyday moments in your life. Starting a gratitude journal doesn’t have to require a lot of time or money. Grab an empty notebook and get in the habit of writing down a few things each day that you’re thankful for. After a while, you’ll have pages full of things that bring you a sense of appreciation and joy.
Pen and paper work just fine for this practice, but there are also plenty of apps and digital tools you can use to journal your thoughts on gratitude. A gratitude journal is a personal practice by nature, but if you feel comfortable enough, you can consider starting a blog or other public space to share your daily moments of appreciation with others and help them learn how to be more grateful every day.
Sharing and Expressing Appreciation in Relationships
Showing your appreciation for your loved ones doesn’t have to look like whisking them away on a tropical vacation or standing outside their window with a boom box. In reality, it’s often those little moments of appreciation that mean the most. Make it a habit to reach out to friends and family members when you think of them to let them know you appreciate having them in your life. A quick text or phone call telling them you’re grateful for them can make you feel better, and it might even make their day to hear from you.
There are many ways to express appreciation for your romantic partner. One small gesture you can do for your partner is to learn their love language. A person whose love language is physical touch might benefit from random hugs throughout the day. Meanwhile, some with an affinity for acts of service would probably love it if you picked up their favorite snack at the grocery store. Tailoring your tokens of appreciation to your partner’s love language lets them know you really care.
Finally, children love to know how much they’re appreciated. If you have a child in your life, you can show them your appreciation by spending time with them playing their favorite game or slipping a sweet note in their lunch box to let them you’re thankful for them.
Learning How to Make Space for Gratitude
Trying to be grateful every day is a wonderful goal, and we all need a little help sometimes with reaching our goals. If negative thoughts and attitudes are taking a toll on your mental health, contact FHE to see how we can treat mental health conditions so you can get back to appreciating life every day.