How to practice gratitude: why the power of thank you could change your life

Next time you feel hard done by, practise gratitude to feel healthier and happier…

practice gratitude and be happier

Brits love to moan.

We do it up to 28 times every 24 hours – and not just about Brexit! Popular topics in our daily whinge-athon include traffic, the weather, potholes and – unsurprisingly – other people.

Yet by switching our mindset and introducing a little gratitude into our lives, we can focus on what we do have, rather than what we don’t. Gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep, boosts spirits and makes us powerful because it’s the glue that keeps communities together.

When our parents taught us to say “thank you”, it wasn’t for good manners alone. Follow these seven pointers to help you learn how to harness the healing power and happiness that comes from being able to practice gratitude...

Things to be grateful for: Acknowledge your loved ones

People aren’t mind readers, so you need to spell it out to them that they matter. Studies show that appreciation strengthens bonds. Psychologist Dacher Keltner says couples who express gratitude to each other are more than three times less likely to split up.

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DO IT There’s no need to gush. A simple “thank you for picking me up from the station/taking the rubbish out” will do the trick. Some experts even go as far as to say sorting the bins is the most romantic gesture of all!

Harness people power

It’s amazing how much weight “thank you” carries in the workplace. A lack of appreciation makes any employee feel frustrated and, in the long-term, will be the biggest factor in making them want to leave. Just two little words can result in increased motivation and commitment.

DO IT If anyone has completed a task for you, drop a quick “thank you” email, phone call or text. It will make them twice as likely to volunteer again.

Practise acceptance over annoyance

There’s no getting around the fact our minds are wired to catch hold of negativity. Dr Rick Hanson describes positive experiences sliding through our brains like water on Teflon, while the negative stick like Velcro. Make an effort to find a more optimistic outlook.

For example, if your husband comes home with a long list of complaints about his day, which you find draining, switch to being thankful he can share his woes, rather than bottling them up.

DO IT For every critical comment you make about a person, situation or pet, find five positive statements to counteract it.

Be grateful for what you have and put it in writing

You can show appreciation by eye contact, a nod or bow, but writing it down makes it last. It only takes a few minutes to give an online review of a delightful coffee shop or charming waiter, and we shouldn’t underestimate the delight a handwritten note of thanks can bring.

DO IT Count your blessings in a gratitude jar – just seeing it fill up will bring joy.

Go for a gratitude walk

Take yourself for a stroll around the park, woods or seaside. Leave headphones and mobiles behind. Look upwards at the sky and clouds, and appreciate the feel of sunshine or raindrops on your skin. Just be in the moment.

DO IT Stop for a sandwich and in your mind, thank everyone who played their part in making it, from the farmers to the bakers and cooks. It will taste twice as good.

Say thanks for the memories

Look back with appreciation at happy times. Think of your achievements, adventures, births of children and the circumstances that led to them happening. Think of your lost loved ones with pleasure, as well as sadness and nostalgia, and don’t be afraid to close your eyes and beam your loving thoughts into the ether.

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DO IT Make a pinboard of photos of memorable moments to make you smile. Recent research says smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanism more than 2,000 bars of chocolate or receiving an unexpected windfall!

High-five yourself

A pat on the back is proven to give our confidence a surge, so put yourself at the front of the queue. If you’ve got this far in life, you’re sure to have gone through some hard patches. Be grateful for your coping mechanisms, your strength and ability to survive and navigate the negative.

DO IT Lie down, close your eyes and imagine a light travelling slowly from your skull to your toes. Checkin with how your body feels and be thankful for all it does for you.

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.