Practising gratitude, is it really all it's cut out to be?

We've all heard about it before, practising gratitude as a tool for increasing overall happiness and satisfaction in our lives. But it sounds a bit too good to be true, doesn't it? Can something as simple as writing down or thinking about the things we're grateful for, really make us happier?

The shorter answer; yes.

But let me give you a slightly longer one.

There have been many recent studies that have shown that those who practice gratitude daily experience a range of positive benefits such as; less stress, more perceived social support and even better sleep. And yet despite all these studies, it's still so easy to be sceptical, I know because I have been. So let me put it more realistically, is practising gratitude a magical skill that can fix all our troubles and worries? No. Will practising gratitude radically change your life? Probably not (at least not instantly). Practising gratitude won't necessarily change our immediate external environment, but it can help determine which parts we shine a light on. Even in challenging times, it can help us recognise and focus on the positive things in our life. That's not to say that we shouldn't experience negative emotions – or that practising gratitude will help get rid of these emotions – not at all. Rather, practising gratitude can help us have hope even when we're not feeling okay.

But like any other skill, it takes practice and persistence to live a life with more gratitude. Here are a few ways you can incorporate practising gratitude into your day:

1. Think about three good things that happened in your day (every day). These could be big things, like being promoted at work or getting a new pet. But more often they'll probably end up being small things, maybe having a nice interaction with your barista or hearing a song you love on the radio. If you find it difficult remembering to do this, you could even set daily reminders on your phone. I know this may seem forced and unnatural, but like anything that we're not used to doing, at first it may feel this way but the more we practice the easier it gets.

2. Start a gratitude journal. You could make it a goal to write something down in this journal at the end of each day, or even just carry it around with you in your bag and write things down as you notice them. Each entry doesn't have to be extensive, could be as simple as a note that says, 'I appreciated the sunset tonight'. The cool thing about writing it down is you can also read back over these entries later down the track.

3.Express gratitude towards those around you. This could mean reaching out to a friend and letting them know you're appreciative for having them in your life. Or it could be as simple as spending an extra few moments to say a genuine thank you to the person at the check-out when you're doing your weekly grocery shop. Not only will this help with practising gratitude for yourself, but it will also likely make someone else's day a little brighter.

These are just a few ideas on how to incorporate practising gratitude into your day, but you can get super creative with it. Stick 'gratitude' post-it notes around your house, buy a chalkboard specifically for gratitude messages, record voice memos – whatever works best for you.

Like I said before practising gratitude is not a magical easy-fix solution to all of life's problems, but it can help make them feel a little bit lighter. For me, practising gratitude added a level of perspective to my life, allowed me to navigate stressful situations with more ease and helped me feel more connected to the people in my life. I also found that the longer I practised, the easier it became to recognise the things that I'm grateful for in my day to day life – in other words, it became easier to feel grateful. If you're still sceptical – that's okay, I'd encourage anyone to at least give this a try. If anything, do it as an experiment and see what happens.

If you're stuck for ideas on where to start have a look at our 'self-help' section and try downloading and filling out our gratitude checklist. 

Image by Nicholas Bartos

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