5 Habits That Help Cultivate Gratitude

Feeling thankful is scientifically proven to improve mental and physical health

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9

Gratitude gets you out of woe-is-me mode and invigorates your life. Feeling thankful is scientifically proven to improve your mental and physical health, open the door to more relationships, improve your self esteem, and even help you sleep better. With the right approach, you can make gratitude a habit and watch the benefits roll in.

Appreciation Journal

At the end of every day, jot down three things that make you feel thankful — they could be things that happened that day, random qualities about your life or your family, or anything you like. Focusing on the positive helps to boost your mood, and when you’re down, you can pick up your appreciation journal and remind yourself of your blessings, according to Psychology Today.

Alternatively, make an appreciation board, or even just mentally note three positives at the end of each day. It won’t leave you with visual reminders to dip into, but the habit still helps.

Silver Lining

As you start to notice things that make you feel grateful, you may have days or moments when you don’t feel so grateful at all. While not trivializing your pain, try to find the silver lining. For example, you may feel embarrassed that you’ve babbled so long to a stranger, but you can be grateful that you have a disarming personality and are easy to talk to.

Meaning and Purpose

If you are struggling to find positives, look at your life, and try to find places where you can add meaning and purpose. This can happen by starting a new hobby, volunteering to help the homeless or the elderly, or even changing your career.

(c) John O’Nolan, Creative Commons, via Flickr
However, you can also deepen meaning and purpose by recasting what you do with your life and how you feel about it. For example, if you hate doing the laundry and every week you sludge through it feeling angry, you can make a choice.

For the first option, you can virtually stop doing laundry, sell everything but two or three outfits and live more simply, and for the second option, you can decide that you are thankful to have clothes and eager to create clean clothing for your family because you love nurturing them. Taking that approach to any tasks that now seem meaningless can infuse them with purpose.

Thank You Notes

When you receive a gift or a kind gesture from someone else, write them a thank you note. Writing in appreciation to someone else helps you focus on the act of gratitude, and it also feels great to spread positivity in the world.

The note doesn’t have to be in response to a gift. You can thank someone for posting an article you enjoyed on social media or write a special thank you note to your spouse, kids, or friends just for being them.

Little Things

While writing thank you notes can help you make gratitude a habit, so can doing little things for others. Bake some cookies for a friend, offer to walk the elderly neighbor’s dog, or pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. Even giving a gentle, understanding smile to someone who looks down is a little gift, and it can help both them and you.

Mental Subtraction

The art of mental subtraction is like gratitude in reverse, and studies show people who practice mental subtraction feel happier as a result, according to DailyGood. To practice mental subtraction, think of something good that happened in your life and imagine what your life would be like without it.

If you have a great income, imagine how it would feel to be broke. If you have a soulful job, imagine what it would be like to do something dull and boring everyday. If you have adopted an amazing dog, imagine what it would be like to come home without him there at the end of the day.