Discover science-based ways to grow your gratitude
Robert Emmons, a lead gratitude researcher, suggests that gratitude has two key components. First, it’s an affirmation that there are good things in the world. Second, it’s a recognition that this goodness comes from outside of ourselves. Gratitude leads us to appreciate things and connect to others, both of which are good for our well-being. So how might we increase our gratitude? Here are some practices to try.
A gratitude journal is a notebook to keep track of the things that you’re thankful for or to complete other gratitude practices in. You can write about the things you are grateful for each day or create a list. You could also use your journal for drawing and other things that help you focus on what you are grateful for. The research suggests that gratitude journaling is an effective tool for increasing well-being.
Need some ideas? Ask yourself:
- Are there any positive things that have occurred in your life?
- Are there any people you are happy to have in your life?
- What music are you thankful for?
- What foods are you most thankful for?
Sometimes when we’re not feeling so good, it can be hard to bring to mind things to be grateful for. Here are some ideas for different life domains.
- People to be grateful for: family, friends, neighbors, teachers, cashiers, colleagues, and mechanics.
- Things to be grateful for: a roof over our heads, flowers, pets, favorite foods, and other important items.
- Places to be grateful for: warm sandy beaches, snowy mountains, nature, your favorite coffee shop, and your other favorite spots.
- Experiences to be grateful for: walking a nature trail, zip-lining, giggling with friends, social events, family reunions, and other favorite events.
Writing a gratitude letter involves thinking through all the things that make you grateful for a certain person. You may want to write one to a parent, partner, or long-term friend. In your gratitude letter, try to think of several things that make this person important to you.
Gratitude notes are kind of like a short version of a gratitude letter. Write out a note or two on a sticky note, card, or in a message to send to someone through text or social media. By taking the time to share your gratitude, you not only get to make yourself feel better, but you can also make others feel appreciated.
Most gratitude practices involve writing or daily journaling. But some of us are more visual and can likely benefit from finding visual ways to explore and practice gratitude. If you want to, try making a gratitude drawing or painting. Include people, pets, foods, and anything else that you are grateful for.
Gratitude meditations may be a good fit for you if you prefer to listen rather than write or draw.
Another fun way to practice gratitude is with a collection. We can collect all sorts of things that we are thankful for—photos, ticket stubs, and holiday cards can all be included. Just pop into your collection to remind yourself of the things you were grateful for.
This gratitude practice can help you imagine what your life would be like without important things or people. This practice can help you become more grateful for the things you might have previously taken for granted.
If we have low self-esteem, we may be struggling to have gratitude for ourselves. That’s why focusing some of our gratitude on ourselves can be a good fit for some. Try this by thinking of all the good things about you—things like your positive qualities and strengths.
Flinchbaugh, C. L., Moore, E. W. G., Chang, Y. K., & May, D. R. (2012). Student well-being interventions: The effects of stress management techniques and gratitude journaling in the management education classroom. Journal of Management Education, 36(2), 191-219.