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  • Writer's pictureLay Jordan

Ways to Elevate Your Gratitude Practice

Updated: Dec 17, 2023







Hey Everyone,


I was inspired to write this because, in America, Thanksgiving (or Turkey Day) recently passed. The holiday has always had a dark history behind it, and even though its meaning has transformed, many people still question why we have a day dedicated to giving thanks when gratitude should be a daily practice. It's interesting to reflect on the origins of gratitude, which can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. These cultures believed in expressing gratitude to the gods through prayers, rituals, and offerings as a way to show appreciation for blessings and seek favor.

In more recent times, the concept of daily gratitude has been embraced by various spiritual and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Stoicism. These traditions recognize the power of gratitude in cultivating a positive mindset and achieving inner peace, contentment, and spiritual growth. They teach us that gratitude is not just a fleeting emotion, but a deep-rooted practice that can have profound effects on our overall well-being.


The practice of daily gratitude has transcended any specific culture or religion. It has become a popular self-help and personal development practice, with individuals from diverse backgrounds incorporating gratitude exercises into their daily routines. Social media has played a significant role in spreading awareness about the importance of practicing gratitude beyond just one day a year. Many individuals, like myself, have joined the movement and are actively embracing gratitude as a daily habit for promoting wellness and happiness in our lives.


In this blog post, we are going to highlight what it means to show gratitude, why it’s important to add into your daily routine and how can you elevate (or create) a gratitude practice


All about Gratitude


According to The American Psychological Association, gratitude is described as a sense of happiness and thankfulness in response to a fortunate happenstance or tangible gift. To summarize the research I found most articles highlighted the many health benefits of expressing gratitude:


Practicing gratitude can have numerous health benefits, both physically and mentally. Research has shown that cultivating a gratitude practice can lead to increased happiness levels. When we regularly express gratitude, we shift our focus towards the positive aspects of our lives, which in turn boosts our overall well-being and satisfaction. Studies have found that individuals who engage in gratitude exercises experience greater levels of positive emotions such as joy, optimism, and contentment.


Gratitude also has a positive impact on our stress levels. By acknowledging and appreciating the good things in our lives, we can counteract stress and anxiety. Gratitude helps us develop a more optimistic outlook, reducing the effects of negative emotions and promoting resilience in the face of challenges. Research has shown that individuals who practice gratitude have lower levels of perceived stress and are better able to cope with adversity.


Additionally, practicing gratitude enhances our empathy towards others. When we consciously express gratitude, we become more attuned to the kindness and support we receive from others. This heightened sense of appreciation fosters a greater sense of connection and compassion towards those around us. Gratitude helps us recognize and value the relationships in our lives, leading to improved social connections and a stronger support system.


Not only does gratitude improve our mental well-being, but it also has physical benefits. Studies have shown that individuals who practice gratitude regularly experience better sleep quality. By focusing on positive aspects before bed, we can reduce anxious thoughts and promote a sense of calmness, resulting in more restful sleep. Better sleep, in turn, has a positive impact on our overall health and well-being.


Moreover, gratitude is closely linked to acts of kindness. When we cultivate gratitude, we become more aware of the kindness of others and are more likely to engage in acts of kindness ourselves. This creates a positive cycle of generosity and compassion, which contributes to our overall well-being. Research has found that individuals who practice gratitude are more likely to engage in pro-social behaviors and experience greater satisfaction with their relationships.


In addition, gratitude can enhance our energy levels. When we adopt a grateful mindset, we shift our attention towards the abundance in our lives, which boosts our vitality and motivation. By recognizing and appreciating the good things, we become more energized and inspired to pursue our goals. Gratitude helps us maintain a positive outlook and mindset, allowing us to approach challenges with enthusiasm and determination.


Gratitude vs Inhibitory emotions


We cannot talk about gratitude without talking about the 3 inhibitory emotions: Guilt, Shame, and Anxiety. I learned about these emotions in one of my courses when we discussed the change triangle. Inhibitory emotions are the emotions that hinder or suppress certain thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. This is something I haven’t seen discussed when people write about gratitude so I wanted to bring awareness to how each can impact your gratitude.


Shame

Shame can hinder our ability to fully embrace and express gratitude, as societal expectations and the pressure to always be happy can lead to toxic positivity, suppressing authentic emotions and invalidating the genuine feelings necessary for cultivating meaningful relationships.

There were countless moments in my life when I found myself grappling with mental struggles, and whenever I found the courage to express my emotions, I was often met with dismissive responses like, "Well, there are people who have it worse" or "You should be grateful for what you have." Those words cut deep, leaving me feeling humiliated and caused me to retreat into myself, hesitant to share my innermost struggles with anyone. It felt as though I was only allowed to experience happiness and that expressing anything other than gratitude was unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances I was facing. This constant pressure to suppress my negative emotions led me to feel an overwhelming sense of shame… as if there was something inherently wrong with me for not always feeling grateful.


It took time for me to realize that authentic gratitude does not require the erasure of other emotions. It is not a mandate to be happy and optimistic at all times, as some people mistakenly believe. This misconception about gratitude practices often stems from societal expectations and can result in the toxic promotion of positivity. People may claim that their dismissive remarks are rooted in gratitude, but in reality, they are perpetuating an unhealthy form of emotional suppression known as toxic positivity. I felt compelled to write a blog post on the topic of toxic positivity a few years ago because of how alarming it is that people don’t recognize how harmful; it can be. Despite their well-intentioned nature, these messages create an unrealistic standard for emotional expression and invalidate the genuine feelings that are vital for fostering meaningful relationships.


Guilt

Guilt is a powerful emotion that arises when we believe we have done something wrong or haven't lived up to our own moral standards. In the context of gratitude, it can make us feel like we aren't deserving of the good things in our lives.

In my journey, I have encountered a range of conflicting emotions when it comes to gratitude. On one hand, I have experienced the familiar feeling of shame for having negative emotions, but on the other hand, I have also felt a sense of guilt when I found myself feeling positive about something that happened in my life. It's a complex mix of emotions that can be difficult to navigate.


Living in a world where there are countless unfortunate events and so many people suffering, it often feels wrong to allow myself to feel happy. It's almost as if I don't deserve to experience joy when there is so much pain around me. This feeling intensifies when something good happens unexpectedly. Instead of embracing it, I find myself questioning whether I truly deserve the blessings that come my way. It's as if I am convinced that I am not worthy of experiencing happiness.


But it doesn't stop there. Even when situations take a negative turn, I feel like I can't express my true feelings about it because I am supposed to be happy about that thing especially if it was something I thought I wanted. I'm trapped in a cycle of guilt and suppression, unable to fully acknowledge and process my emotions. It may sound contradictory, but many people can relate to this experience of feeling guilty for experiencing happiness, and it can often be accompanied by imposter syndrome.


As I've grown and learned more about gratitude, I've come to understand that it's entirely possible to be grateful for the things happening in our personal lives while still expressing empathy towards others who may be going through tough times. It's not a matter of choosing between gratitude and empathy; we can feel both and show kindness to others while working towards our own success and victories. It's a misconception that having good things in our lives means we can't be happy about them because of the comparison trap that social media has created. On platforms like Instagram, people often share only the highlights of their lives, leading others to assume that everything is perfect. But the truth is, we don't know the full story because individuals have the power to choose what they reveal. It's important to remember that even if someone's life seems ideal, it shouldn't upset us unless they are genuinely being tone-deaf or lacking self-awareness. Social media has evolved in a way that many people use it as a platform for their personal brand, which can make us question the purity of their intentions. However, it's also possible that some people are genuinely sharing the little moments or creating a space to showcase the memories they cherish. We simply don't have all the information. When we find ourselves struggling to be unaffected by other people's successes, it often stems from our own negative self-perceptions or a scarcity mindset that believes others' accomplishments diminish our own potential for success.


Anxiety

Anxiety can create a constant state of unease and restlessness, hindering our ability to cultivate a gratitude practice.

Last but not least, anxiety. As a 22-year-old woman who constantly worries about the future, I've come to realize that gratitude and anxiety cannot coexist. Living with anxiety means living with a mind full of "what ifs" and catastrophic thinking, always anticipating a future that is uncertain. Gratitude, on the other hand, is meant to keep us grounded in the present moment. I used to have a habit of saying no to things before even trying them, always jumping to the worst-case scenario because that's how my mind operated. Let me give you an example from my current situation. I'm currently on a career break, and although I'm grateful to have this time to step back and really think about what I want to do, I often find myself worrying if it's the right choice, and then I begin to spiral. Conversations play in my head, like:


"I haven't worked long enough to feel like I deserve a break. The fact that a job would hire me is something I should've taken advantage of. What if I need a job later and they see this gap on my resume and think it's a valid reason not to hire me? What if no one hires me and I'm stuck forever? What if something happens to my mom and I'm inconveniencing her by taking a break? What if she secretly sees me as a failure? What if I am actually a failure and I messed up by not continuing to work even though I was getting opportunities? Why does it feel like I do everything wrong? I don't want to end up homeless, starving, and alone."


My mind used to jump to even more morbid scenarios (but I don't want to scar you). Now, when I realize I'm spiraling, I turn to gratitude. I start by saying, "I take all of that back," and then I look around me and use my five senses to ground myself.


“I am in the softest PJs I'm wearing, tasting the sweet and spiciness of the cinnamon tea, and in the beauty and comfort of my room. I listen to my favorite music as I explore my innermost thoughts and emotions, putting them into words to share with others, because that's something that makes my life feel purposeful and worth living. I'm grateful to be experiencing this because it brings me a step closer to finding my purpose and makes me more driven to work towards my dreams, as if I am meant to feel this every day.”



Another thing I've done is create a mantra for myself when it comes to worst-case scenarios.


Regardless of everything, the worst-case scenario is that I would need to look for a new strategy. The things I desire didn't just come from thin air. Whether this is a side quest to bring me closer to what is meant for me, or it's just a speed bump on my road to reaching my highest self, whatever happens, it is not failure. If something doesn't happen the way I wanted, those are lessons, opportunities for growth, and moments to broaden my perspective, as what I know about things I haven't tried is limited. The only true way to fail at something is to not try. When something doesn't go my way or rejection happens, it is a gift because it gives me the knowledge I need to move forward. Remember, having goals is like being on a boat - I can either change the trajectory of the ship or hop off that boat to board a new one. My intuition will always prevent me from sinking.


This mantra brings peace to my mind, and if you're someone who spirals too much when it comes to worst-case scenarios, this is another option that can tie into your gratitude practice.



Research source list:



Did you learn anything new about gratitude from this blog post?

  • Yes, there were valuable insights I hadn't considered.

  • I already knew most of the information shared.

  • No, the blog post didn't provide new information.


Different ways to express gratitude


This section is about the different things you can do to express gratitude. I feel like most of these can be expressed in a journal ( which is why I start most ideas with write) but you can get creative by making a gratitude blog, using a scrapbook, making videos etc. Have fun with this:


Ideas on ways you can express gratitude

  1. List things you admire about your personality (kind, empathetic, honest, funny, generous, inspiring, positive, intelligent, hardworking, ambitious, creative, etc.)

  2. List things you admire about yourself physically (eyes, lips, dimples, brows, freckles, soft skin, hair, nose, body)

  3. Create a list of people who inspire you that you don't know personally

  4. Create a list of people who you are grateful for in your inner circle

  5. Write letters to the people you are grateful for (if you are brave enough, share it with them)

  6. Write a letter to God/the Universe/Source (whoever you dedicate your faith to)

  7. Write letters to family members you are grateful for

  8. Write about the things you are grateful for in the summer

  9. Write about the things you are grateful for in the winter

  10. Write about the things you are grateful for in the fall

  11. Write about the things you are grateful for in the spring

  12. Write about a place that makes you feel happy

  13. Write about your home

  14. Write about things your body can do

  15. Write about water

  16. Write about the air

  17. Write about the trees

  18. Write about your pet(s) if you have any

  19. Write about plants

  20. Write about sentimental items

  21. Write about heat

  22. Write about electricity

  23. Write about technology

  24. Write about a TV show

  25. Write about a Movie

  26. Write about your significant other

  27. Write about a teacher or professor who changed your life

  28. Write about a boss or co-worker

  29. Write about transportation (your car, buses, trains, airplanes, etc.)

  30. Write about furniture (your bed, a chair, etc.)

  31. Write about a scent

  32. Write about a talent you have

  33. Write about clothes you love

  34. Write about hobbies

  35. Write about the tool that helps us to do necessary things like cooking

  36. Write to your parents

  37. Write about your phone

  38. Write about things that you use to keep you entertained (video games, social media, music)

  39. Write about places you have traveled to

  40. Write about people who taught you about the kind of person you don't want to be

  41. Write about communities you are a part of

  42. Write about restaurants

  43. Write about foods that bring you joy

  44. Write about your current age

  45. Write about opportunities you were given

  46. Write about your greatest accomplishment so far

  47. Write about emotions

  48. Write about a challenge you overcame

  49. Write about your culture

  50. Write about a family tradition you love

  51. Write about a favorite book or author

  52. Write about a memorable vacation or trip

  53. Write about a favorite piece of artwork or artist

  54. Write about a mentor or role model in your life

  55. Write about a positive change or growth you've experienced

  56. Write about a kind gesture someone has done for you

  57. Write about a favorite hobby or pastime

  58. Write about a positive affirmation or mantra that inspires you

  59. Write about a favorite quote or saying

  60. Write about a moment of gratitude you've experienced today

  61. Write about a favorite memory from your childhood

  62. Write about a favorite song or musical artist

  63. Write about a favorite podcast or TED Talk that has inspired you

  64. Write about a favorite self-care practice that brings you joy

  65. Write about a favorite nature spot or outdoor activity

  66. Write about a favorite teacher or professor who made a difference in your life

  67. Write about a favorite charity or cause that you're passionate about

  68. Write about a favorite quote or saying that motivates you

  69. Write about a favorite meal or recipe that brings you comfort

  70. Write about a favorite scent or fragrance that brings back positive memories

  71. Write about a favorite accomplishment or achievement you're proud of

  72. Write about a favorite inspirational book or podcast episode

  73. Write about a favorite role model or historical figure who inspires you

  74. Write about a favorite gratitude journal prompt that resonates with you

  75. Write about a favorite way to practice mindfulness or meditation

  76. Write about a favorite place in nature that brings you peace

  77. Write about a favorite piece of clothing or accessory that makes you feel confident

  78. Write about a favorite hobby or pastime that brings you joy

  79. Write about a favorite childhood memory that brings a smile to your face

  80. Write about a favorite spiritual practice or belief that brings you comfort

  81. Write about a favorite inspirational quote or mantra that motivates you

  82. Write about a favorite piece of advice you've received that has made a positive impact on your life

  83. Write about a favorite daily ritual or routine that brings you a sense of calm and grounding

  84. Write about a favorite act of kindness you've witnessed or experienced

  85. Write about a favorite piece of music or song that uplifts your spirit

  86. Write about a favorite hobby or activity that helps you relax and recharge

  87. Write about a favorite piece of technology that simplifies your life or brings you joy

  88. Write about a favorite way to give back to your community or make a positive difference in

  89. Write a heartfelt thank-you note or letter expressing your appreciation.

  90. Surprise someone with a small gift or act of kindness to show gratitude.

  91. Offer to help someone with a task or project they need assistance with.

  92. Take the time to listen attentively and show genuine interest in someone's thoughts or feelings.

  93. Cook a special meal or treat for someone you are grateful for.

  94. Volunteer your time or donate to a cause or organization that you appreciate.

  95. Share a positive review or testimonial for a product, service, or business that has made a difference in your life.

  96. Spend quality time with loved ones, engaging in activities that bring joy and create lasting memories.

  97. Give someone a genuine compliment, highlighting their strengths or positive qualities.

  98. Offer a sincere apology and make amends if you have wronged someone, showing gratitude for their forgiveness.

  99. Teach someone a skill or share valuable knowledge that can benefit them.

  100. Practice random acts of kindness, such as holding the door for someone or helping a stranger in need.






I hope you enjoyed this blog post and if you have taken the time to read this, I am truly grateful. I hope this helped your perception of gratitude in some form and gave you new ideas on how to practice it. If you have anything you want to see more of, be sure to comment with suggestions or email me about content ideas. Remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel, and follow my TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter to connect and stay up to date. I am excited about my next blog post so make sure you comeback. Until then, there’s a lot more content on my YouTube channel. I hope you have a good day, evening, or night.


Until next time,

xoxo Lay 💋


 
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