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Living a Life Full of Gratitude

At Thanksgiving, many of us take time to reflect on the things that we’re grateful for. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life that we’re fortunate to have a holiday that encourages us to take a step back, look inward, and really focus on giving thanks. After all, no matter what situation you’re in or the recent cards that life may have dealt you, there is always a silver lining and something worth appreciating.

Can you imagine what our lives would be like if we took the same enthusiasm that we have at Thanksgiving and applied that to our daily lives? Science has shown that living with a grateful heart can have powerful changes that touch your entire life, not to mention the lives of others. From better sleep and increased patience, to improved relationships and overall well-being, studies have proven that gratitude is more than just a state of mind.

There’s no doubt that we’re all busy people, but if there’s one thing worth making time for, it’s this. One of the best things about incorporating gratitude into your life is that it’s practically free (unless you would like to buy yourself a nice new journal, which we won’t discourage) and it’s not something that requires much of your time. There are also endless resources online that can help you get started. Just type “gratitude journal prompts” into Pinterest and you will have more than enough to work with.

One particular exercise is called “Three Good Things.” Thompson (a cognitive scientist) actually found considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness amongst study participants within just a few weeks. He said, “If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich. Gratitude is very powerful.” Here’s how you can get started:

Three Good Things Exercise

  • Every night for the next week, take 10 minutes before you go to bed and write down three things that went well today and why they went well.
  • The significance is irrelevant (because remember, small things deserve to be appreciated too). So don’t think that one day isn’t worth journaling about because nothing groundbreaking happened. Maybe it’s something small like your daughter made you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s totally ok! Because the more you take time to appreciate small moments, the more you’re going to realize that you’re constantly surrounded by things worth appreciating.
  • Make sure to write down the “why” because this is the aspect of the exercise that really encourages deeper reflection.
  • Most likely, after you do this for one week, you’re going to start noticing a shift in your mentality and you will make it a part of your daily life for the long-term.

In addition to the “Three Good Things” exercise, you can also incorporate gratitude into your every-day routine by being aware of your thoughts and making an intentional effort to stop negativity in its tracks. This takes nothing more than a little self-awareness and an effort to immediately shift your perspective. Here’s what this looks like:

Negative thought: “I just ran a 10 minute mile. I’m the worst.”

Negative thought reframed: “I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough to be able to exercise.”

Negative thought: “I hate doing the dishes.”

Negative thought reframed: “Dirty dishes mean that I am able to feed my family, and for that I am grateful.”

See how easy that is? Negative thoughts, no matter how small, can add up and really bog your day down if you let them. By paying attention to the internal dialogue happening in your mind and making an effort to see the bright side of any situation, you will find a newfound appreciation for the many blessings in your life.