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5 Gratitude Exercises To Practice All Year Long

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano & Gretchen Hydo

Photography by Julia Hirsch

While the Thanksgiving holiday has now come and gone, according to Gretchen Hydo, an L.A.-based life and business coach, the reasons for creating a daily ritual of giving thanks are numerous. Hydo points to recent research that finds expressing gratitude has a bunch of benefits, including: better sleep, improved relationships, emotional resilience, improved self-esteem, reduced envy and jealousy, and deeper friendships, amongst other goodies that both adults and children could clearly gain from. But gratitude, Hydo explains, is like exercise. And must be practiced consistently in order to access the aforementioned benefits. Below, she details 5 easy ways to incorporate gratitude exercises into your family’s life.

Write it down.
Take a few minutes every day to write down 5-10 things you’re grateful for. This will change your mindset and help you to look for the good and to notice abundance. Take note of what needs in your life the items on your list are fulfilling. Are they emotional, physical, or spiritual? Does it have to do with your career, community, or finances? When you practice mindful gratitude, it will help see how much you already have and alleviate some of the fears that cause anxiety.

Send a thank-you note.
There are people in your life who have helped you get to where you are today. Even if at this very moment, this isn’t a place that you consider a high point, you have learned lessons along the way. Who has helped you? Inspired you? Taught you? Write them a thank you note and be specific about what you are thanking them for. Saying thank you is an act of humility. When you act in humility, you empty yourself of ego and make room for all the good there is to receive.

Be mindful.
When you walk around with your thoughts churning and expecting the negative to happen, you miss out on the present. There is abundance all around you. Look up from your cell phone. Make eye contact with others. Smile. Connect. Notice the world around you. Enjoy and use your senses. When we are open to the world, the world opens before us and offers us its beauty. Go out in the morning expecting the good.

Surround yourself with grateful people.
When trying to build a new habit, it’s always a good idea to surround yourself with people of similar goals. You can get some friends together and email or text one another a gratitude list every day. Try sharing what you’re grateful for over lunch or coffee. When you’re having a difficult time, reach out to them for help finding something to be grateful for. Surrounding yourself with grateful people will help you stay accountable to developing a habit of optimism or gratitude.

Turn the tables.
Negative things happen. That’s life. The beauty of practicing gratitude is that it allows us to search for the positive in every situation. We can take away the power negative things have over our mood and attitude when we decide to find something to be grateful for in them or by believing in the transformative power of perspective. This isn’t to say we should deny the difficulties or problems in our lives, but rather we should choose to focus on the good things in our lives instead. Next time something discouraging or problematic happens, consciously look for reasons to be grateful in that situation and see how it impacts your outlook.

For more on this topic, check out our pieces on How To Raise Thankful Kids and How To Talk To Your Kids About Thanksgiving.

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