There’s so much emphasis on gratitude this time of year. As we look ahead to a season of abundance, festivities and togetherness, we count our blessings and express thankfulness for the joys of life. A genuine attitude of gratitude is not merely seasonal—it’s an intentional, consistent daily practice.
An attitude of gratitude is beneficial for many reasons. It helps us nurture a balanced outlook and enriches our relationships. It can even enhance our mental, physical and emotional wellness. So, if you’re looking to incorporate an attitude of gratitude into your own life, here are a few ways to do it:
The Science Behind an Attitude of Gratitude
It might surprise you that an attitude of gratitude can rewire neural activities within your brain. According to research from the University of California Berkeley’s “Greater Good” project, focusing on what you’re thankful for can reinforce awareness and sensitivity to the experience of gratitude in the medial prefrontal cortex—the area of your brain associated with learning and decision-making.
Over time, your brain will start to seek reasons to express gratitude, which can decrease negative emotions such as resentment, jealousy and guilt. Neural shifts are gradual, but eventually, your practice will reap these mental and emotional health benefits.
How You Can Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude can seamlessly fit into your existing routines and, when practiced daily, is sure to enhance your well-being and outlook in beautiful, meaningful ways. Try these six quick practices to get into a habit of thankfulness:
- Start each day off with a gratitude check-in. Before jumping headfirst into the day’s activities, take a few minutes to pause and reflect on what you’re thankful for. Identify about 3–5 areas of gratitude, from family connections to the warmth of your morning coffee. Write them down in a journal to have a tangible “attitude of gratitude” list.
- Verbalize your appreciation for loved ones. A simple “thank you” has the power to communicate more than you realize. It shows another person you value and appreciate your role in your life. Make it a habit to express gratitude to relatives, friends, neighbors and others around you.
- Get creative with a gratitude “vision board.” If you’re feeling artistic, reach for a glue stick, poster board, scissors and photos or magazines, and create a collage to illustrate what you’re thankful for. Then, once you finish, showcase this gratitude vision board on a prominent wall in your living space. (Bonus: art offers therapeutic benefits such as a boost in cognition, mood state, attention and emotional regulation.)
- Post reminders to be thankful in your home. Sometimes you need visual cues to slow down, take a breath, recenter yourself and marvel at how blessed you are. Grab a stack of post-it notes, write your favorite gratitude quotes on them, then place them in visible areas around your home. Stick them on the bathroom mirror, the fridge and even the nightstand, so you’ll have gratitude in the brain while falling asleep.
- Carve out time to mindfully spend in nature. The outdoors are so therapeutic—it’s hard not to feel grateful when immersed in this earth’s beauty. Make a point to connect with nature daily. When you go outside, notice the ground beneath your feet and inhale the fresh air in your lungs.
- Practice sincere generosity and compassion. An attitude of gratitude spurs you into acts of kindness, so embrace this wholeheartedly. Mail out letters to your grandchildren just because, or drop off a home-cooked meal for a neighbor. Visit with a sick friend in the hospital or donate time, money or both to a local cause (Vineyard Gives an excellent way to help the community).
An Attitude of Gratitude is an Intentional Lifestyle
If you want to infuse thankfulness into your life—both during this season and beyond—view it as a lifestyle, not just another task to cross off your list. An attitude of gratitude requires consistency and intentionality to cultivate, but the benefits are worthwhile. Start with these six daily practices, and before you know it, an attitude of gratitude will take root!