However it turns out that practicing gratitude makes us happier and healthier, so it is more important now than ever to focus on the positives in our lives rather than dwell on the negatives.
The good news is that gratitude is something we can actually practice. It doesn't have to be an elusive concept, it is a skill we can easily acquire (if persistent).
Below I have outlined three of my top tips for practicing gratitude so you can begin to rewire your brain and reap the benefits of becoming a more optimistic individual.
1) What went well for you today?
We are seven times more likely to notice a negative rather than a positive. Seven! But by writing down three things that went well for you at the end of each day, you can start to reverse the brain’s negativity bias. In just 21 days of practicing gratitude you can rewire your brain to start scanning the world for positives.
The idea behind writing down what went well for you rather than just listing things you are grateful for, is to encourage you to notice things that aren’t immediately obvious. If everyday you write that you are grateful for the roof over your head, the exercise can quickly become repetitive and stale (even though it is an important thing for which to be grateful).
2) Who are you grateful for?
Healthy relationships are vital to our wellbeing at any age. We are social creatures after all. So while you practice gratitude it is important to think about the people in your life who you are thankful for. Research has found that gratitude can in fact improve relationships. Those who are more likely to express their gratitude for their partner feel generally more positive towards them and feel more comfortable voicing concerns about the relationship.
3) Personalise your practice
Don’t feel restricted to writing a list every night. This just wont work for everyone, so below I have listed some alternative ideas:
- Discuss what went well for you with your family around the dinner table
- Create a gratitude tree (great if you have little ones)
- Tight on time? Write your list on the shower screen whilst having a shower
- Write down what went well for you each day on a piece of paper and pop it in a gratitude jar
You will be more likely to make it a habit if you personalise the practice so that it suits you.
After years of practicing gratitude every day I have noticed that I am a much more optimistic person. This doesn’t mean that I’m never affected by negative experiences, however I am less likely to dwell on them. Now, to show you how important I believe it is to practice what I preach, below is a page from my Resilience Project Journal which outlines exactly what I was grateful for yesterday and why (please excuse my handwriting)!