5 Ways to Cultivate More Gratitude in Your Life
A few years ago, a colleague and I spontaneously decided to go cycling before work. We had it planned so that we could still make it to work on time, which only started in the afternoon that day.
While we were taking a break in between cycling, I lamented wistfully that I wanted to spend more of my days like this. My colleague rolled her eyes at me in exasperation and said, ‘Well, we are cycling by the beach while every other person is probably working. This is the life that you are wishing for! You just don’t see it.’
Ouch. This was such a wake-up call for me. While chasing after the ‘perfect’ life, I failed to see what I had, which was that I already had a lot of time flexibility with my work. In fact, I could decide to go cycling every morning if I wanted to. I just couldn’t see it.
If you were to think about your own life, what are the positives in your life that you constantly overlook as well?
The Importance of Gratitude
When we fail to recognize what we have, we continue to feel miserable no matter what we have. We could have a perfect family, supportive friends, and a respectable career, but still feel miserable because we are just not able to see what we have.
Practicing gratitude allows us to recognize and appreciate the things and people around us. Research has shown that practicing gratitude has wide-ranging benefits, from increasing our happiness levels, being more resilient, improving our health, to having better relationships.
Practicing gratitude for just 5 minutes a day has been shown to increase our long term well-being by more than ten percent. This is the same amount of impact on our well-being when we double our income, which is pretty impressive since practicing gratitude is so much easier.
Ready to start cultivating more gratitude in your life? Here are 5 exercises proven to build gratitude.
5 Exercises for Cultivating Gratitude in Your Life
01 | Practice Gratitude Meditation
Start your day by practicing gratitude meditation, which is a type of meditation that focuses on expressing gratitude for all the things in your life. Focus on visualizing all the things that you are grateful for, in the same way in which you would focus on your breath in a normal meditation practice.
Here are some guided gratitude meditations that you can follow to get started:
- Gratitude Meditation by Dr. Kathi Kemper, Ohio State University
- Guided Meditation on Gratitude by Deepak Chopra
- Gratitude Meditations on Insight Timer
02 | Make a Gratitude List
At the end of each day, write down three things in which you are grateful for. It could be three things which have gone well in your day, people you enjoyed spending time with, or small everyday things such as the weather.
The purpose of this exercise is to make a conscious effort to recognize and appreciate the positives in your life. It is important that you sincerely pay attention to the things that you are grateful for, and look out for different things to be grateful for each time.
Here are some prompts for gratitude lists that you can make:
- I am grateful for these three things that went well today:
- I am grateful for these three experiences today:
- I am grateful for these three people in my life:
- I am grateful for these three family members:
- I am grateful for these three friends:
- I am grateful for these three colleagues:
- I am grateful for these three things I hear:
- I am grateful for these three things I see:
- I am grateful for these three things I touch/feel:
- I am grateful for these three things I taste:
- I am grateful for these three character traits:
03 | Write a Gratitude Letter / Email
Write a letter to someone who has had a positive influence on your life and whom you are grateful for. It does not have to be a very long letter (300 words or less), but make sure to describe how this person has helped you and how you feel.
If you would like to, you could email or mail out the letter that you have written to your intended recipient. You could even meet up with the person face to face and read out the letter to him or her.
04 | Take a Gratitude Walk
Go for a walk with the intention of paying attention to everything around you. Whether you are taking a walk in the park or on your way to work, take in all the sights and sounds. Engage your five senses as much as possible. Notice the colour of the trees, the sounds of nature, the smell of freshly baked bread, and the feel of the ground beneath your feet. Take the time to really appreciate what you are experiencing.
05 | Say ‘Thank You’ For Small, Everyday Things
There are people who do things for us every day that we don’t even notice. The bus driver who gets you to work on time every morning. The cleaning lady who quietly empties the dustbin at your work desk. The office assistant who ensures that the pantry gets restocked every time it runs out. Or the barista who serves you your morning coffee even before your eyes can open properly.
Make an effort to notice and say thank you for the things that you have previously taken for granted.
I hope these ideas were helpful in inspiring you to start your own gratitude practice! Let me know in the comments below if you have tried some of these exercises.