How to practice gratitude in your daily life
I often find that as a student, it is very easy to get caught up in life. A lot can happen from the time between snoozing our alarms in the morning to setting our alarms at night. From rushing to get ready in the morning, to watching lectures, completing assignments, cooking, studying with friends, and completing chores, it may feel almost impossible to take a break. When we get caught up in the chaotic mess of life, we often miss the beauty in our everyday lives. This leads me to question, how many of us actually take the time to pause and reflect on what we are grateful for?
This may seem like a minuscule, irrelevant, or even insignificant task, however, some say that gratitude is a “gateway emotion”1. Philosophers have said that gratitude is the greatest virtue as it paves the path for several others. For example, having an appreciation for someone can blossom into love, having gratitude for what you have can increase your life satisfaction, and loving what you do can improve performance1.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is an emotion that involves a deeper appreciation for someone or something which produces longer-lasting feelings of positivity2. It also seems to serve a biological purpose as research has found many neurobiological reasons as to why countless individuals benefit from this act2. Gratitude has also been found to have a host of benefits ranging from physical advantages like having stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, to psychological and social improvements such as having higher levels of positive emotions and being more helpful, compassionate, forgiving, and outgoing3.
How does it work?
According to research, participants who wrote about things they were grateful for during a 10-week period not only reported being more optimistic and content, but also exercised more, and had fewer visits to physicians4. How is it possible that a simple act of writing is correlated to fewer healthcare visits? Apparently, it is because gratitude is a selfless act that works by influencing several processes such as catharsis and reciprocity. By expressing gratitude, we are able to release strong emotions that may have stemmed from traumatic or stressful experiences. When we shift our thoughts from disappointment to appreciation, we feel more at peace and satisfied2. Additionally, gratitude often leads to an exchange of positive emotion where one person’s appreciation can have a ripple effect2. This act of gratitude fuels our sense of purpose which can have effects on our emotional as well as physical well-being.
4 Ways to practise gratitude in your daily life
Begin and end each day with intention- As much as you can, try to start your day by thinking about what you appreciate and expect from the day. This will start your morning off on a positive note and prime you for the experiences to come. Before you sleep, reflect on your day and think about what you were grateful for. Think about your positive experiences, interactions, and emotions1.
Write down what you are grateful for- Research has shown that the act of writing down things you are grateful for can increase your happiness and wellbeing. This is because it requires you to pause, focus, reflect, and reinforce your positive experiences1. You can do this by using a gratitude journal to express your thoughts or writing thank you notes to others expressing your appreciation4.
Practise being mindful- Being mindful can help increase your awareness and attention to everyday things. Try finding small things that you are thankful for throughout your day and avoid taking those things for granted. For example, maybe a coworker made you laugh or you had a nice conversation with the barista at your coffee shop1.
Openly express your appreciation- Whether it is virtually pressing ‘like’ on someone’s message or thanking them in person, communicating your appreciation for someone can go a long way. It not only improves your mood, but their mood as well5.
Written by: Sapna Singh
Year III, Honors Life Sciences