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How to Start a Gratitude Practice: 7 Expert-Approved Techniques

How to Start a Gratitude Practice: 7 Expert-Approved Techniques

Be grateful for what you have! That advice may sound trite and, frankly, super annoying, especially when you’re having a really crappy day or otherwise struggling to look on the bright side. But starting a gratitude practice isn’t just some wellness gimmick: A growing body of research suggests that it can actually have a lot of physical and mental health benefits.“The science of gratitude is pretty clear in showing how effective and legit it is,” Laurie Santos, PhD, professor and Head of Silliman College at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast, tells SELF. For starters, studies have found that people who take the time to acknowledge what they’re grateful for are less likely to experience negative emotions and report greater overall well-being as well as stronger social support. There’s also some evidence that gratitude is associated with lower blood pressure and better sleep quality. (We don’t want to bore you with more science, but if you’re interested, here’s a detailed review of gratitude’s research-backed healing powers.)But let’s be real: Just because you know a particular wellness ritual is good for you, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to start incorporating it into your life, especially if you’re in a low-energy or high-anxiety place. The really nice thing about a gratitude ritual, though, is that it can be incredibly low-effort: There’s no special technique to learn and no significant time investment.If you’re curious about starting your own, try one or more of the following practices for a few weeks and see how you feel.1. Start by thinking about gratitude just once a day.“Take some time every day, a few moments, to reflect on what you’re grateful for,” Judy Moskowitz, PhD, MPH, professor of medical social sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and president of the International Positive Psychology Association, tells SELF. The easiest way to build this into your life? Tap into gratitude while you’re completing a chore or routine that you do daily. Making your bed in the morning, unloading the dishwasher, cleansing your face at night—these little activities can double as the time you intentionally savor the stuff you’re thankful for. That way, it becomes habitual—plus, no need to rearrange your day.Acknowledging a minimum of three things you’re grateful for is a great place to start, Dr. Moskowitz says, and “they don’t have to be brand new every day.” You might use ones like your health, your spouse, or your pet over and over again. They can also be seemingly trivial, Dr. Moskowitz adds—as small and simple as the fact that the sun is out or your morning coffee tasted amazing.2. Keep a gratitude journal.As the most-studied intervention, keeping a gratitude journal is a great idea, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, science director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, tells SELF. And it’s better to take a few moments to really reflect on these little gifts, instead of rushing to jot them down like a grocery list, she adds. The more you allow yourself to really feel your appreciation—versus simply going through the motions—the more beneficial the practice will be, she says.

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