At this time of year, with Thanksgiving on the way and Christmas approaching at high speed, it’s a good excuse to pause and reflect on our lives.
Bringing gratitude into our lives can really help us to appreciate what we have – and to value our own skills and abilities. It also teaches us to value our friends and family and how to show them that we are grateful for all that they do for us.
1. Let people know you appreciate them by writing a thank you note
Saying thank you to people who’ve helped us isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s good for us too.
“We all need gratitude. We need to receive it so that we feel appreciated, and we need to extend it to others and the world we are part of, to stay connected and appreciative of what we have,” says Lois Blyth, author of The Power of Gratitude.
An handwritten note is a truly personal way to show our gratitude and appreciation. Italian calligrapher Betty Soldi likes to write beautiful little thank you messages to people who have helped her out – and they’re always gratefully received.
“My friend Tamara works in the technology industry and whenever she meets people she sends little thank you notes,” Betty says. “People are just overwhelmed, because in the technological world to receive a handwritten note is just so rare.
“That’s the one thing that I’m finding out more and more – it’s a very generous thing to do and people notice it.”
Read our interview with Betty Soldi and download some free calligraphy work sheets from her book, Inkspired, here.
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2. Start a gratitude diary
This is one of the easiest ways to bring the practice of gratitude into your life and can be particularly helpful if you’re feeling low.
Find a notebook – one that you really like – and write down three things each day that you feel grateful for.
These gratitudes can be anything from “I went for a nice walk” to “I enjoyed seeing a friend”.
Don’t worry if some of the things you feel grateful for seem minor or insignificant. It’s okay if the best thing that happened to you is that you had a blueberry muffin that day. Over time, you’ll find it easier to pick out good parts of your day.
Return to your diary now and then to remind yourself how far you’ve come.
3. Download a gratitude app
If you lead a hectic life, downloading a gratitude app can be a quick and easy way to fit it into your day.
The Gratitude Journal app, only available on iOs, allows you to record your gratitudes each day and also offers motivational quotes to inspire you. Android users can try Bliss, which can be downloaded via Google Play.
4. Start a gratitude jar
This is similar to a gratitude diary, but instead of keeping all of your gratitudes in a book you write them on a piece of paper and pop them into a jar.
After a certain amount of time (perhaps at New Year), open up the jar and read through the notes. Be very specific with your gratitudes and it’ll help you to remember what was going on in your life at that time.
5. Write a letter to someone you’ve never thanked
We all have someone in our lives who helped us when we needed it – giving up their time and knowledge, or simply listening.
Take the time to write a letter to that person to thank them for their help and let them know how much you appreciate them. They might not even know how much their actions mean to you, so it might come as a nice surprise!
6. Make time for yourself
Committing to any gratitude practice means giving yourself the space to reflect, otherwise your efforts are likely to peter out as you struggle to fit them in.
If you’re in a rush in the morning, perhaps set aside time to complete your gratitude journal in the evening instead or during a break.
7. Appreciate friends and family
Many of us live far away from friends and family, so Thanksgiving and Christmas are time to reconnect.
However, there’s a lot of pressure to make the holidays really special and these high expectations can leave you feeling dissatisfied if the day doesn’t turn out as perfectly as you might expect.
Try shifting your focus – does the day need to be as stressful? Does it really require so much preparation? Who is the burden falling on?
If one member of the family seems to be struggling, make an extra effort to help them out with preparing the food or cleaning up. If the younger members of the family are getting restless, take them out for a walk. By reducing stress, you’ll all be able to appreciate your time together.
Photos by Element5 Digital, Alex Geerts and Haley Powers on Unsplash