Gratitude has the power to make us happier, healthier and more successful in every area of your life. But being grateful as a mindset is more than just mumbling a quick thanks now and again. Like meditation or exercise, gratitude must be practiced regularly and thoughtfully for you to get the most benefits. What can we learn from researchers and great thinkers to help us cultivate more gratitude and begin to experience these many rewards? 

Book your gratitude

Creating a regular schedule will help make gratitude a habit and part of your regular routine. The most effective practices use a daily or weekly format. For example, you could start your day by thinking about 3-5 things you are grateful for. A morning appreciation ritual will energize your outlook and help you develop a positive and resilient attitude. Alternatively, you could end your week by spending 20-30 minutes reflecting on all the good things that happened and why you appreciate them. Closing  your week with reflection and appreciation will boost your mood and give something you can look forward to. 

Share the Love

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” said motivational speaker and writer William Arthur Ward. Making it a point to regularly let the people in your life know that you appreciate them and all they do for you will strengthen your relationships and give everyone involved warm and fuzzy feelings. If you need some inspiration consider the people in your life who brighten your day, help you overcome difficult challenges or support you in other ways. 

Document your gratitude

The more you are able to create tangible expressions of your gratitude, the greater the benefits will be. Increase the power of grateful thoughts by writing them in a journal. Power up the influence of your gratitude journal by letting the people you are grateful for know how much they mean to you. Increase the power of your grateful expressions by taking the time to consider the format the person would most appreciate. Verbal expressions of gratitude are wonderful but also consider “keep sake” methods that the receiver can appreciate for years to come such as letters, notes, drawings or voice recordings. 

Create rituals and traditions

Take your gratitude practice to advanced levels by creating special rituals and practices to share with your family and friends. This could be as simple as each taking a turn to say what you are grateful for during Thanksgiving dinner or creating a communal place for people to write what they are grateful for about each other. Gratitude rituals don’t need to be centered around Thanksgiving and can help you cultivate goodwill and connection all year long. What about taking a few moments to let someone know how grateful you are for them when you fill out their birthday card? Or what about having a gratitude challenge with friends or family like “30 expressions of gratitude in 30 days?” 

Deepen Your Gratitude Practice 

Being grateful goes beyond polite expressions of thanks and requires reflection and heartfelt expression. This type of next level appreciation requires significant time and effort, but will help you reap the greatest rewards. Researchers have described in detail the most effective gratitude process. Step 1: Actively reflect on the people in your life who have helped, supported or inspired you in some way. Step 2: Consider what these contributions to your life mean to you and the specific ways they have helped you. Step 3: Take time to savor and emotionally feel the experience of receiving these gifts Step: 4 Let the other person or entity know with as much specificity and feeling as possible that you appreciate them.

The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time

-Douglas Wood 

During this exceptionally challenging Thanksgiving season-when we may not be able to be with the ones we love-gratitude can be a practice that helps us stay positive, joyful and connected. What is your favorite way to practice being grateful, cultivate a gratitude practice and express appreciation for others?