How to Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is something we can integrate into our everyday lives - recognising, recollecting and acknowledging the good whenever it is there.
Read on to discover the practical steps involved in cultivating gratitude. You can also read more about the benefits and principles of gratitude here.
As individuals, we are already equipped with the tools needed to recognise, experience and give back the good.
When making a conscious effort to cultivate gratitude into our lives, we should be careful not to make it 'about us'. Gratitude should not feel like a forced personal project or daily chore. In fact, according to Professor Robert Emmons, attempts to impose gratitude too artificially can undermine its very essence.
At all times, gratitude should remain focused on the external - training our minds to recognise sources of goodness from outside of ourselves i.e., the actions of other people or the beauty of nature.
As we begin to recognise and reflect upon the rewarding experience of gratitude, we may start to feel encouraged to give goodness back to the world, resulting in an upward spiral of positivity and wellbeing.
Three Good Things
One practice that has been used to promote gratitude and test the effects of it on our general health and wellbeing is 'Three Good Things'.
As the name implies, Three Good Things involves taking the time to focus and reflect upon three things we have felt grateful for that day.
Whether you think of them in your head, state them out loud like a mantra, or record them in a journal, reflecting on the things we feel grateful for has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health benefits (read more about gratitude and its benefits here).
Three Good Things can also be used as a positive replacement for the rumination and worry that may tend to creep in as soon as our heads hit the pillow (read about the link between gratitude and sleep here).
Naturally, on some days we may find it hard to think of three good things, in the same way it may be hard to limit ourselves to three on others.
Whatever the case, the 'thing' you're grateful for does not have to be a huge and there should be no pressure to think of the practice in this way.
It may be that one 'thing' we noticed ourselves feeling happy and grateful for was the sunny weather or a delicious meal. Other days, a random act of kindness or a gesture from a loved one may provide a deeper sense of other-orientated gratitude and a more elaborate reflection will likely occur.
Little things are not 'bad' or any 'less important' than other more elaborate or specific examples. Reflecting upon the joy, grace and love we felt in noticing, experiencing and recollecting any positive moment is always beneficial.
Today I felt grateful that I get to live in a world where I can experience the warmth of the sunshine on my face as I walk to work. Noticing the warmth put a spring in my step and made me feel more positive about the day ahead and my interactions with others.
Today I felt gratitude towards my amazing friend who took the time to cook and prepare a delicious meal for me. I felt grateful for our conversation and laughter, as well as the delicious food we were able to share together.
Saying Thank You
In addition to more concrete practices such as Three Good Things, expressing gratitude can be as simple as saying two words when someone or something inspires thanks.
Practices such as yoga, mediation and going for a walk in nature can provide ideal moments to reflect and focus on expressing gratitude.
Yoga is a great time to appreciate your body for its function, while reflecting on the things you are grateful for in life. Yoga With Adriene (my personal recommendation for anyone wanting to explore yoga in general) has some specific gratitude practices that may be helpful if you're looking to incorporate a little more gratitude into your week.
Yoga for Gratitude
Grounding into Gratitude
However we may choose to express it, taking time to incorporate gratitude into our lives by noticing, experiencing and acknowledging the good things that happen to us day-to-day can provide us with a healthier outlook and improve many aspects of our lives.
Emmons and McCullough (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.
Emmons (2014). Gratitude Works, the science and practice of saying thanks.