Making Gratitude a Daily Practice

Thanksgiving week is finally here. Gratitude is such an important aspect to mental health and happiness that it should be practiced daily (not just yearly).

In his new book Hardwired for Happiness Dr. Rick Hanson explains how we’re genetically predisposed to find the ‘bad’ in most situations. Our instinctive survival mechanisms  requires us to identify any threats that could be dangerous to us. And as a result, most of the good things go unnoticed. Luckily for us, we can actually train the brain (almost like a muscle) to get better at noticing the positive aspects of our lives and increase our happiness.

Neuroplasticity is a scientific term that explains the power we have to shape how we experience the world we live in.  It is defined as the ability of our brain to form new connections based on our actions, experiences and thoughts. Today we cover three ways you can make gratitude a daily practice and in turn, improve our happiness.

1. Acknowledge

Most of the time we see what’s around us but don’t acknowledge how beautiful, amazing, spectacular that particular thing is. As you go about your day, pick out things that stand out to you and quick second to acknowledge them. How beautiful is that tree? How good does that breeze feel on a hot day? How amazing is it that we have the ability to hop into a car and drive to the beach or a waterfall?

2. Verbalize

Making other people happy is probably the easiest way to improve your own happiness. And one of the easiest ways to make someone happy is to acknowledge how they helped you out. A lot of times we may be thinking how grateful we are, but don’t actually verbalize it to the person who helped us out. While a simple ‘Thank You’ is an ok first step, letting them know specifically how it helped you out will provide more meaning, making that person and yourself feel better.

3. Reflect

At the end of each day write down three things positive things that happened that day, big or small. This helps form the connections in the brain to begin noticing the great things that happen to us everyday and improve your happiness. Nothing has to be mind blowing here, something as simple as ice cold water on a hot day it worth being grateful for.

The more we can emphasize positive experiences, create positive thoughts the more we form deeper connections in the brain that become permanent traits. So as we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving let’s turn this yearly practice of gratitude into a daily practice of gratitude.