Lesson 8.3 - Tips for increasing gratitude
Who’s ready for some tips and strategies for boosting your Vitamin G aka Gratitude? I am!
Later in the lesson we’re going to go over different ways to practice gratitude and some tips for making the most of your gratitude practice, but first I want to touch on the benefits of practicing gratitude. Aside from the fact that gratitude can help you build up your imperfectionism, there are other reasons why adding gratitude to your life is a good thing.
Benefits of practicing gratitude
1. Gratitude gives you better self-esteem
Results of a 2014 study show that gratitude increases a person’s self-esteem. Research has also indicated that gratitude decreases social comparisons. Reduced self-esteem is for the most part caused by resentment toward someone else’s circumstances or achievements. Instead, grateful people up the self-esteem ante by appreciating other people’s achievements.
2. Gratitude gives you the opportunity for more and better relationships
You know the book ‘How to win friends and influence people’? Well, according to recent research, showing appreciation helps you win friends and... influence people’s behavior. Thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. Create opportunities for yourself by thanking the barista for making your morning coffee or sending a thank-you card to that coworker who helped you figure out a difficult project.
3. Gratitude improves psychological health
Practicing gratitude helps you say bye bye to toxic emotions: from frustration and regret to envy and resentment. Not only that, but gratitude also increases your well-being. Robert Emmons is a leading gratitude researcher and a number of his studies show that gratitude increases happiness and well-being and reduces depression. If you, like me, always thought that gratitude is the result of happiness, then that’s scientifically proven wrong. Gratitude CAUSES happiness.
4. Gratitude improves physical health
Gratitude doesn't just warm your heart, it may also lead to a healthier one. A new study published by the American Psychological Association found patients with asymptomatic heart failure showed decreased levels of inflammatory biomarkers in the body, which are related to improved cardiac health.
A recent study suggests that gratitude improves your immune system and lowers your blood pressure.
Gratitude also reduces stress.
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, according to a 2012 study.
Grateful people are more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors.
5. Gratitude makes you mentally stronger
Recognizing all you have to be thankful for - even during the worst, most painful, most traumatic times of your life - fosters resilience. Just one example of how this works is shown in a 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy. The study found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD.
6. Gratitude makes you more empathetic and less aggressive
More so than others, grateful people behave in what scientists call “a prosocial manner”. Study participants who were more grateful were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
7. Gratitude improves the quality of your sleep
According to a 2011 study, writing in a gratitude journal improves the quality of your sleep. When you spend a few minutes before bed writing down things that made you feel grateful that day, you may sleep better and longer. Don’t count sheep, count blessings.
8. Gratitude creates solutions
Adopting a gratitude practice takes you out of problem (oh no, there’s only one piece of chocolate left!) and toward a solution (yum, there’s one piece of chocolate left!). It puts you into a best-outcomes mindset. That’s a skill you need in your life. Entire Fortune500 companies have been created from seeing solutions where others only saw obstacles.
9. Gratitude puts an end to complaining
Complaining means you’re focusing on all the things you don’t have, see, or experience. Gratitude makes you focus on all the things you do have, see, or experience. Complaining and being grateful don’t go together. Period.
10. Gratitude lifts your mood
This is the benefit that made THE most difference for me in my daily life. I’ve shared before about how a couple of years ago I hit rock bottom. My therapist gave me the assignment of rating my daily mood on a scale of 1 to 10 and to write that number down next to my daily gratitude list. I did that for the following three years.
I’m so thankful that I’ve kept my journals from the last couple of years, because now I can see how my general mood has lifted over the years.
11. Gratitude helps you say no more easily
This one is so important for any people pleaser out there and we talked about this in the people pleasing module.
Do you have trouble saying no? I get it. ‘No’ sounds so harsh and short and definitive, right? The thing about gratitude is that it softens just about any message you give or receive. Showing that you’re grateful softens the edges of that harsh ‘no’:
“Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to politely decline.”
“I’m so grateful for you and our friendship, but what you’re suggesting isn’t convenient for me.”
That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Not only is this a great way of putting your gratitude to practice in your relationships, but it also helps you say no in a kinder and more gentle way. Gratitude helps you say no in no time.
12. Gratitude helps you see your goals and purpose more clearly
Gratitude helps you focus on what you already have. As a result from knowing all the things that you already have or that you’re capable of, it helps you zero in on those areas in your life that need improvement or in which you want to achieve something.
Practicing gratitude helps you hone in on what’s important to you and drown out outside voices. It's so easy to follow those voices and get swept away in society's view of success, but gratitude will help you figure out what your version of success looks like. It lets you channel your ambition to where it matters the most to you. It helps you find purpose, keeps you on a purposeful path, and helps you slay the goals you've set for yourself.
13. Gratitude makes you more creative
Gratitude opens your eyes to the world around you. It lets you see things you didn’t see before. It makes you notice things you previously took for granted or thought little of.
Gratitude changes AND enhances your perspective. It also opens and enhances all of your senses. You see more, you smell more, you feel more. Because of that, ideas and creativity will start to flow within you.
14. Gratitude helps you in your imperfectionism
I just want to reiterate how gratitude can help you build up your new habit of imperfectionism, since gratitude is a practice. You literally have to take action and put it into practice. And action taking is the core of the imperfectionism framework. Plus, the bar for taking action is so low: practicing gratitude is easy and doesn’t take up much time.
How to practice gratitude
Do I have you convinced? I thought so.
Now, let’s talk about how to practice gratitude. Gratitude can be both a short-term, in the moment tool and a long-term, strategic habit.
Gratitude in the moment
You know that moment when you’re stuck in perfectionism, for instance when you’ve already quadruple-checked an email but you feel compelled to go over it a fifth time just to make sure? Yes? Well, we’ve all been there.
When you’re stuck in the moment, gratitude can be a great tool to snap you right out of that place of perfectionism. As soon as realize you’re trying to perfect something or you’re focusing on not enough, think about something that you’re grateful for in that situation.
Let’s say… you’ve invited a group of friends over for a dinner party and an hour before they arrive you’re all flustered and panicked because the tiramisu isn’t perfect. When you shift your mindset to gratitude, you’ll realize that you have a great group of friends who love you and who want to spend their evening with you and that is something to be grateful for.
That ONE moment of gratitude snaps you out of perfectionism and makes way for other positive thoughts, like “You know what, my friends prefer a low-key evening anyway. They’re not the kind of people who want a stuck-up, formal, three-course meal.”
Gratitude works. It just works.
When you can’t find something to be grateful for in that particular moment, which isn’t always easy or possible, make a short gratitude list of three things you’re grateful for in general that day instead.
Gratitude as a daily habit and practice
In my ebook Growing Gratitude, which you can download for free as a bonus to this course, I list 39 different ways to practice gratitude. I highly encourage you to work through Growing Gratitude to figure out which gratitude practice best fits you and your needs.
The key here is to start a new habit, something you know you can do every single day.
The most popular gratitude practice is a gratitude journal or gratitude list. The difference between the two is that a gratitude list is just short phrases and in a gratitude journal, as with any journal, you write in full sentences and you elaborate on why you’re grateful for that specific thing.
You can vary with the number of items on your list. Writing a short daily gratitude list of three things works best for me, but if you can think of more things to be grateful for each day I’d say props to you. Use a gratitude journal or simply a pretty notebook, whatever works best for you.
Another way to practice gratitude daily is at the dinner table. Because, you know, eating dinner is likely something you do every day. Girl’s gotta eat. And, unless you live alone, you have a spouse, a partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend, your kids, a friend, a roommate, someone you have dinner with and with whom you have to carry on some sort of dinner-time conversation anyway, so why not talk about gratitude. It makes telling each other about your day a lot more meaningful too.
Use Growing Gratitude to pick a gratitude practice that works for you, but also think about the fact that it’s going to be a daily habit. So, make sure you pick a practice that’s quick and easy and convenient for you and that you know you’ll be able to do consistently. Can you piggyback off of an existing habit you have, something you already do everyday?
Use the worksheet that comes with this lesson to make a commitment. Write down which gratitude practice you’ve chosen, what time of the day or before/during/after which activity you’re going to practice gratitude, and commit to trying it out for a set amount of time. After a week or a month or whatever amount of time you chose, evaluate your gratitude practice, make the necessary adjustments, and carry on.
Tips for a sustainable and successful gratitude practice
You sit down to write your gratitude list, put your pen to paper, and then… nothing. You can’t think of a single thing that happened to you today that you are grateful for. Ugh… I’ve been there!
Having no gratitude inspiration happens to the best of us. I’ve been practicing gratitude for over five years and, believe me, I still have days where finding things to be grateful for is simply IMPOSSIBLE.
I’ve found these tips and tricks to be very helpful.
Get playful. Pick a random letter from the alphabet, the letter W for example, and name all the things you’re grateful for that start with the letter W. Or look to your right and write down all the things you see, things you may take for granted. Walk into your kitchen, open up a random drawer or cupboard, and list the things you’re grateful for that relate to the items you come across.
Another tip is to look inward. Which personal qualities can you be proud of? Which character traits can you be grateful for? We talked about this in the previous lesson. Finish the sentence: “I am grateful because I am…”
Another thing I’ve learned is to change my perspective every once in a while. By looking beyond the surface I can see so much more than I’ve initially held possible. You can be grateful for the tree in your backyard, because it’s beautifully green. That’s fine. But what other reasons to be grateful for that beautiful tree can think of? That the tree contributes to a beautiful scenery, that it shades you from the sun and protects you from the rain, that it can house a few bird nests, that it’s an example of perseverance because a tree literally and figuratively weathers any storm, that it’s an example of hope because - admittedly - a tree loses its leaves every fall but it also grows new leaves every spring. Maybe you can think of better examples than these.
And finally, another great tip for creating a lasting, sustainable gratitude practice is to use affirmations every day, before or after you’ve practiced gratitude. These affirmations focus on gratitude and will help you reinforce an abundance mindset over a scarcity mindset.
“There is more than enough for me.”
“Everything I need for a grateful and meaningful (and perfectionism-free) life I already have right in front of me.”
“I am sincerely grateful and this attracts positivity into my life.”
“There is so much ahead that I’m excited to experience.”
This last one is great for when you feel stuck, stagnant, uninspired, or disconnected.
Okay, now that we’ve gone over ways to create a successful daily gratitude habit, it’s time to finish up this module and, for you, to get working on the exercises in Growing Gratitude and on the worksheet. Make a commitment to yourself and to your gratitude practice. I’ll see you over in Module 9.