Most of us are familiar with gratitude exercises, however, very few us actually practice it. Perhaps this is because a gratitude exercise becomes one more item on our never-ending to-do list, that we never have time for. I want to challenge you, to approach gratitude exercises in a different way. A gratitude exercise is intended to relieve stress, increase positivity and improve happiness. In practice, however, a gratitude exercise seems to do the exact opposite. This occurs when a gratitude exercise triggers stress, requires too much effort or does not naturally fit into the routine of our day. In this blog post, you will learn how to participate in gratitude exercises without losing the intended benefits.
A gratitude exercise is often associated with journaling and, therefore, many of us are reluctant or even annoyed by the practice of it. I have good news for you: you don’t have to journal. Gratitude exercises are not restricted to writing in a notebook. Additionally, it extends to more than just individual reflection on daily events. Gratitude exercises encompasses a multitude of things, such as: the acknowledgement of external factors, recognizing and giving verbal and nonverbal appreciations, and awareness of joy and positivity.
Acknowledgement of External Factors
This gratitude exercise focuses on acknowledging external factors that are a positive influence. For this exercise, acknowledge any external factors that you are grateful for. External factors are things that we have no control over (environment, other people, social aspects and political influences). Here are some examples:
The train is close to my house.
Traffic was light today.
My co-workers are very supportive.
My neighbors are quiet and respectful.
This exercise can be done in a journal, verbally, on the note’s app of your phone or even spoken aloud. When we acknowledge the positive external factors in our life and express gratitude for them, we are shifting our focus from the negative. If you continue to practice this exercise, you will begin to attend to positive external factors more than the negatives.
Recognizing and Giving Verbal and Nonverbal Appreciations
A person’s mood is impacted by the energy of the other’s, our interpretations of other’s behaviors and being a positive influence on others. Gratitude exercises are often focused on recognizing gratitude or positive factors in our life. Expressing gratitude for others, however, is just as helpful. This exercise will increase your awareness of how others express gratitude for you. This will help you feel appreciated, valued, and not taken for granted by the people in your life. Additionally, you will also be working on improving your own expressions of gratitude to others. Often times, when we do something nice for someone else, we experience our own boost in happiness.
Gratitude can be expressed verbally and nonverbally, and it is important to attend to both for this exercise. A nonverbal expression of gratitude includes: smiling, embracing, eye contact, heads nods, waves and so on. Nonverbal expressions can also include actions from someone else: bringing a gift (such as coffee), helping with a task without being asked and making time for someone in your day. Verbal expressions are much easier to recognize and can include: compliments, written communication and verbal appreciations. Here are some examples of this exercise:
A co-worker stopped by my desk to ask how my weekend was. Making time for me shows that a person is grateful to have me in their life.
I stopped at a bakery on my way home to get my roommate her favorite treat. This shows I am grateful for her by making time in my day to stop and do something I know will make her day a little better.
I told my partner I appreciated them when I came home to a clean house.
Awareness of Joy and Positivity
This gratitude exercise requires an intentional effort to recognize joy and positivity in your day. This can be done several ways: internally recognizing moments of joy or positive factors during your day, reflecting on this at the end of the day, or intentionally striving to add more joy and positivity throughout the day. Here are some examples:
There was a person on the train today with her child and the way they interacted reminded me of the purity of a parent’s love. I am grateful I got to witness this.
We had a four-hour meeting scheduled at work that everyone was dreading so I woke up early and brought everyone coffee to make it a little better. I am grateful that I have the means to do so and that I was able to bring a little joy to this meeting.
I hope this blog post helps you implement gratitude into your daily routine. Gratitude exercises are helpful way to boost your mood, focus on the positive and creates a sense of belonging in your community. Try these exercises out and see if you notice a difference in your everyday life.