In this season of giving thanks and expressing gratitude towards loved ones, it’s important to remember that a daily expression of gratitude has the power to improve your health. When you’re in the midst of your day it can be easy to forget about the basic things that you are grateful for, whether it’s a roof over your head, a loving partner, or a fridge stocked with all of your favorite foods. Acknowledging these blessings and cultivating a positive mindset can improve your quality of life on a day-to-day basis – so being consistent here is key!
What does an expression of gratitude look like on a daily basis? It could mean setting aside time for a daily meditation practice, making space in your schedule to sit down and journal, or devoting yourself to a personal spiritual practice. These are opportunities to refocus on what’s going well in your life, and reduce stress that adds up during a busy day. The thoughts that run through your mind each day have an impact on the way you show up in the world, so it's important to keep a positive and grateful headspace.
We’ve found several wellness experts to share their tips for showing more gratitude. Each small step adds up, so choose whatever feels best for you!
1. Keep a gratitude journal
According to Zakiyya Rosebelle, a life coach and author of several gratitude journals, writing down your thoughts as a daily check-in can make each day feel more positive. This can be a therapeutic experience, allowing you to record your thoughts on paper and even refer back to old notes as a pick-me-up when you’re feeling down.
Zakkiya explains, “To be grateful means to feel a genuine, heartfelt appreciation for the good things in your life. Start noticing all of the good things in your life, appreciate them, and write about them in your gratitude journal,” she says.
2. Help someone in need
Help someone who is weak where you are strong. “Every single person has strengths and weaknesses. You can show gratitude by thinking of someone who is struggling in an area of life where you know you have aptitude, and help them,” says Shlomo Zalman Bregman, a matchmaker and relationship expert in NYC.
Your assistance could be financial, strategic, or supportive. It could mean leveraging your professional network or helping someone out in an area where you’re particularly blessed. “This practice helps cultivate the trait of gratitude in yourself by forcing you to look inward and take stock of your strengths,” he says.
3. Offer a random act of kindness
Random acts of kindness could look like giving a homeless person a sandwich, donating to a charity of your choice, or helping someone carry their bags when struggling on the street. “There are many ways we can make a person smile and lighten their load in life,” says Bregman. Plus, the act of doing so cultivates the trait of gratitude in us, so it’s mutually beneficial.
You can also give someone a compliment. “This can sometimes be intimidating, as a lot of people have a hard time approaching someone they don't know, but it just has to be something simple,” says Tesse Struve, founder of Millennial Mom Coaching. “You will walk away knowing that you have brightened someone's day and feel grateful for the opportunity to make the world just a little bit better.”
4. Write a thank-you note
A handwritten note is a heartwarming gesture that can help brighten a loved one’s day, letting them know that you are thinking about them and that you are grateful for their presence in your life. Whether you leave a note in your partner’s lunchbox or send a letter to an old friend, a thank-you note is a great way to spread the love and show your gratitude.
“A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Indiana found that people who did this only three times showed more activity in the area of the brain associated with gratitude than the control group, even months after the last letter was written,” says Kate Hanley, author, writer, and coach. “Gratitude has the capacity to change your brain, which also makes it easier for you to ‘go there’ in the future.”
5. Be patient
Patience is hard to come by in today’s fast-paced world. Developing a patient attitude is something that enhances your mental and emotional health—everything is not always going to go exactly to plan! A patient person practices understanding and acceptance of uncertainty or difficulty, often developing a greater sense of gratitude through times of stress.
“It’s the opposite of instant gratification, which is something we have become increasingly accustomed to, and it’s linked to acceptance – it’s foolish to waste our energy on ranting against what cannot be changed,” says psychotherapist Jane Haynes in her interview for Vogue. Patience is a superpower trait that can help you self-soothe and find the calm throughout any storm. When you practice this mindset, you have more space in your mind to focus on the things that you have and are grateful for today.
6. Pay it forward
Take your gratitude to the next step by paying it forward and expressing kindness towards the people you encounter during your day. This could look like picking up a coffee for a coworker or friend, chipping in when someone in the grocery line is short on cash, or giving someone a smile or a friendly greeting in your elevator. These actions can create a ripple effect, inspiring others to spread the kindness to whomever they encounter, too.
The IIN community is passionate about paying it forward, offering an abundance of health and wellness resources to help people achieve holistic health, especially during difficult times. Let someone know that you’re thinking about them and wishing them good health by sending resources that can support their physical, mental, and emotional health.
7. Volunteer your time
Volunteer work is not only beneficial for the recipient, but it can also give you a sense of pride and accomplishment for how you’ve chosen to spend your free time. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that volunteering may actually have benefits for your physical and mental health! The evidence suggests that adults who volunteered on a daily basis were likely to have lowered blood pressure and a longer lifespan.
Volunteering your time, without the expectation of any formal payment or recognition in return, shows unconditional gratitude to the person or organization that you are helping. Try it out yourself by offering a couple hours of your time at your local food bank, animal shelter, or place of worship. There are also opportunities for virtual volunteering, such as with WhyHunger’s hunger hotline, helping refer those in need to local food banks and other social services.
8. Being thoughtful of others
Being thoughtful of others means anticipating a person’s needs and finding ways to show that you care. In practice, this looks like offering to wash the dishes after your partner has had a busy work day, buying fresh flowers for a sick parent, or volunteering your time to babysit for a friend who needs a minute to themselves. These are small yet powerful gestures to show the people in your life that you care, and that their personal well-being is on your mind.
When it comes to romantic relationships, particularly, this is an important component in showing your partner that you care. Relationship expert Vikki Ziegler explains that, "Taking something off each other's plate shows that you appreciate your partner's hard work and want to help them and allow them time to unwind after a hard day."
9. Be an active listener
An active listener is present in a conversation, giving their full and undivided attention to the person they are speaking to. Active listening looks like:
Maintaining eye contact
Allowing the other person time to speak
Offering brief verbal affirmations throughout the conversation
Repeating back what you’ve heard to confirm and validate what the other person is saying
Empathizing with their point of view
Paying attention to the message they are trying to get across
Think back to a time when a friend or family member came to you asking for advice or guidance in a difficult situation, or simply just wanted someone to listen to them. Were you patient and understanding of their point of view? Did you listen with an open mind and give them time to speak without interrupting? Oftentimes, we find ourselves planning out a response without fully giving the other person a chance to finish their thoughts. Active listening is a great way to show the other person that you value their time and opinion, and that you want to engage in a productive conversation.
IIN Health Coach Heather Freudenthal explains that active listening is a key ingredient in helping her clients improve their health. “I make sure to validate my client’s feelings and acknowledge how challenging it can be to feel like ‘everyone else’ has it easier.” She is able to form a relationship with them by expressing understanding and compassion.
10. Show yourself gratitude
Don’t forget about yourself! If you don't show yourself the love and care that you need, how do you expect to give back to others? Treat yourself to some self-care with a warm bath or workout class after a busy day of work, or unwind with a glass of wine and your favorite TV show.
“It's also helpful to take a moment to STOP in the middle of your day or when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Stop, look around, and find one thing to be grateful for in that moment. By practicing gratitude each day, and staying grateful for each and every moment, we will improve our moods, our relationships, and our happiness,” says Struve, founder of Millennial Mom Coaching. Take a moment to show yourself love each day, and your entire outlook can become more positive!
At IIN, we believe that health is more than the foods you eat and the amount of time you spend in the gym. We view wellness through a holistic lens, encouraging students to address the areas of their lives that affect their emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Download a Curriculum Guide today to gain a better understanding of some of these core concepts.
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) was founded nearly 30 years ago and has become the world’s largest and most prestigious online health coaching and nutrition school.
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