While many people talk about practicing gratitude, there is a difference between practicing gratitude and having a gratitude practice.
“When you create a gratitude practice, it’s very intentional and defined,” says Jan Stanley, who has worked with Fortune 500 companies to develop leadership development programs and is now a speaker and teacher on the topics of rituals, practices and habits. She says a gratitude practice helps you slow down and take note of the many gifts in the world around you.
Studies are showing that practicing gratitude increases life satisfaction and overall well-being. In fact, one study by Robert Emmons, Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, indicates that a regular gratitude practice helps people “appreciate life to the fullest”—even during difficult life events.
“People roll their eyes because it’s so simple, but even if you start small with the intention of becoming grateful, you will see changes,” Jan says. “Start thinking about not just what you’re grateful for that day, but why,” she says. As you think about what those things mean to you, your appreciation for them grows.
Some simple gratitude practices include:
- Gratitude Journal: Write down what you’re grateful for every day. Focus on one topic and write about why it makes you feel grateful, or list several different things that make you grateful.
- Gratitude Jar: Keep a jar of glass beads or stones in a central location, and make sure every person in the home or office has an empty jar. “If you’re grateful for something that person did, put a stone in their jar and tell them why,” Jan says.
- Three Blessings: Each day, write down three things you are grateful for.
- Candle Ritual: This can be done as a daily ritual or for special family gatherings; each person lights a candle while sharing what he or she is grateful for.
“What happens is that you start looking for things throughout the day that make you grateful. It has an amazing, transformative effect,” Jan says. “You start noticing things you didn’t see before and appreciating them.”