If you've dabbled in the self-care or mental health spaces, you've probably heard about the benefits of practicing gratitude. Keeping a "gratitude journal" is a common way to make sure this happens on a regular basis: Cracking open your journal and writing down a handful of things you're grateful for every morning, evening, or even on your lunch break.
While this is can be a beautiful and fulfilling practice, it can also start to feel a little stale. How many times can you write "I'm grateful for a roof over my head, I'm grateful for my partner, I'm grateful for my dog ..." before the words start to lose meaning? If you've been feeling a little burnt out on that particular venture, trust us — that's completely normal.
As we get ready to usher in a new season complete with blossoming, fragrant flowers and and joyful singing birds, why not take a moment to give your gratitude practice the spring refresh it needs? Here's a guide to making that happen.
Why is a gratitude practice important, anyway?
First, let's take a moment to review why gratitude is so important in the first place. Giving thanks has a number of important scientifically proven benefits, from increasing happiness to reducing anxiety and depression.
"Recognizing the things and people in your life that you are thankful for increases emotions such as joy, happiness, resilience and hopefulness while decreasing feelings of sadness, loneliness and anxiety," explains Dr. Sarah Kwan, a licensed psychologist. "Not only does gratitude provide a healthy dose of psychological support, it has also been found to boost your immune system, lower stress and increase your ability to relax and unplug."
In other words, practicing gratitude has a number of incredible benefits — and not ones you want to give up just because your practice is feeling a little boring at the moment. Here are a few ideas for breathing some life into it.
Try expanding on the details.
So you're grateful to have a roof over your head — that's great! But get specific about what you love about your space. Is it the cozy corner where you have your morning cup of coffee and read the paper, free of any technology-related distractions? Is it your bedroom window that lets just the right amount of sunlight in? Is it the warmth it greets you with after a cold day outside? Really expand on exactly what you're grateful for about the place you call home.
Don't be afraid to get creative.
It's great to practice gratitude for the things that bring joy and comfort to your life on a daily basis, like your best friend or your child, but try thinking outside the box. It's OK to be grateful for something seemingly tiny, like the fact that you happened to wake up an hour earlier than usual without an alarm and were able to squeeze a workout in. Practicing gratitude for the smaller, everyday moments can make your gratitude practice a whole lot more interesting.
Reflect in the moment.
Another thing to consider is taking a break from your journaling practice entirely and simply reflecting in the moment. "This means acknowledging mentally, at the micro-level, something you are grateful for," explains Kwan. "This can be everything and anything from a song that touches you on your commute to work or a free treadmill at the gym."
That's not to say you should ditch your gratitude journaling practice entirely, but a little mental gratitude might just give you the break you need to return to it when you're feeling restored and refreshed.
Pay it forward.
Here's a unique, out-of-the-box way to think about gratitude: Try giving back. "Try intentionally putting a smile out into the world or paying it forward by purchasing a coffee for your fellow human, or something of that nature," says Kwan. "You will receive all the benefits of gratitude whilst also making someone else's day a bit brighter."
How do you practice gratitude? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.
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