Being grateful creates positive outcomes, and science has my back on this one!
Countless studies show that people who consistently make an effort to be more grateful are happier, more optimistic, feel more socially connected and even sleep better than those who don’t. And if that’s not enough to have you jumping on the gratitude train, happier people perform better at work, make more money and basically run the world.
While Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season focusing on what we should appreciate in our lives, the practice of being grateful is quickly lost almost as fast as the turkey coma takes over. Here are three easy exercises to keep your gratitude muscle toned throughout the entire holiday season:
- Make a “Dandelion List”: A “Dandelion List” highlights things you see throughout the day that can serve as anchors to positivity. Simply write down three to five things you see each day and associate them with reasons for why you are grateful. For example, my front door to my apartment is on my Dandelion List. When I see my door it reminds me to appreciate living in the beautiful city of San Francisco, close to friends and family and literally blocks away from tourist attractions that people travel the world to see. Your list can include your yoga mat, running shoes, car keys, wine opener…the options are endless. Make your list, save it to your phone and re-read it throughout the month. Each day when you see these common objects that you’ve attached positive meanings to, you’ll have even more reason to smile.
- Say thanks once a week: My mom was right when she always nagged about writing thank you cards. Saying “thank you” requires taking a moment to acknowledge the wonderful things people in your life are doing. Send a genuine thank you text, email, card or phone call to someone each week. Not only does it build empathy and joy, but it also shifts your mindset to take in the good that is around you. Plus, who doesn’t like to hear someone tell them they’re great – it’s a win-win situation for all!
- Write down three things you are grateful for each day: Keeping a daily gratitude journal takes less than five minutes a day, yet it has the power to entirely transform your mindset. Once a day write down three things you are grateful for. It can be in a notebook, on your phone or an ongoing email chain to yourself. Don’t over think it! These lists don’t have to be deep and insightful, it can be as simple as sleeping in an extra ten minutes or seeing a cute dog on the street. The more you train your brain to recognize these small moments in your life that you are grateful for, the more you will be aware of them as they happen. It’s kind of like when you buy a new car and all of sudden you see that car everywhere. You’re brain is simply tricked into being more aware of it in the moment. Tip: Set a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to fill out your gratitude journal.
Some days it’s easy to crumble under worry and stress. In those moments, flexing your gratitude muscle is the perfect ‘quick fix’ for your mindset – and far more effective than other Band-Aid solutions to coping with stress (like downing a bottle of wine). And the good news is, just like building muscle strength, the more you train you mind to scan for positive things, the stronger the neural pathways become and the easier it is to find things to appreciate in the future.