How Mindfulness and Gratitude Can Improve Your Well-Being
During the holiday season we often talk about thankfulness, but practicing gratitude is something we can do each day - regardless of the season - to improve our emotional well-being.
Focusing on gratitude and mindfulness can enrich our lives. Because it helps bring our awareness and attention to each moment and to find the good in those moments, it enables us see things through a lens of positivity. According to Harvard Health, practicing gratitude can also make you feel happier and more fulfilled.
Both mindfulness and gratitude alike have the power to change our perceptions, attitudes, thoughts and feelings in a way that creates more room for connection and helps to bring more joy to our life and the lives of those around us.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. To practice mindfulness is simply to invite yourself to where you already are and to experience and acknowledge that moment without judgment or expectation. Mindfulness is a practice that enables us to experience life from a place of kindness and compassion. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness, and the only wrong way to practice is by not practicing at all! But here a few mindfulness practices you can add into your daily life:
- Intentional breathing: Allow yourself to focus on your breath. Notice every inhale and exhale. Place your hands on your belly and notice it rise and fall with every breath in and out. Tune into your senses.
- Engage the five senses: Name something specific that you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Notice how it grounds you and brings you to the present moment
- Mindful walking: While walking, bring your awareness to the world and space around you. Allow your thoughts of the day to come and go and refocus your energy and attention on the weather, the sites to see, the things you hear. Breathe into that experience and that moment.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is synonymous with appreciation, acknowledgement and respect. Gratitude helps us to feel positive about the things, circumstances and people in our lives by bringing our focus to what makes us feel happy. The root of gratitude, like mindfulness, is kindness. And, like mindfulness, there is no wrong way to practice gratitude. In many ways, gratitude is a form of mindfulness that enables us to be present with the feelings and sensations of the goodness in our life. Below are a few ways to practice gratitude:
- Start a gratitude journal: Every night before you go to sleep write down one thing from your day that brought you joy or that you are thankful for. Be as specific as possible and remember, sometimes it is the ordinary things that are made extraordinary by giving them the attention they deserve.
- Give thanks: Be intentional with your appreciation of those you interact with each day. Make your thank-you special and specific: Rather than a simple “thanks” if someone holds the door for you, you could try, “Thank you for holding the door; I appreciate your thoughtfulness.” Adding the reason behind your appreciation not only adds value to the recipient of your thanks, but also helps condition your mind to see the positives more abundantly.
- Recognize, acknowledge, appreciate, share: This four-step process is a great practice to add in throughout your day. Allow yourself to recognize that despite our struggles, there is still good in the world. Acknowledge what good you can find in your own world. Take a moment to show those things appreciation. Then share those positive things with others. Sharing your positive outlook with others can sow seeds of gratitude throughout your community.
So go ahead: There is no better time than now to start a new tradition for your mental well-being!
12 Things to be Grateful For
To get started on the road toward mindfulness and gratitude, here are a dozen things we can all be grateful for - no matter where we are in life:
- The feeling of a smile across your face
- A morning stretch
- The ability to take a deep breath
- Art and music
- The ability to learn something new
- The snooze button
- A home-cooked meal
- Friends, family and friends that feel like family
- A simple act of kindness toward a stranger
- The beauty and diversity of nature
- Watching a sunrise and knowing each day is a new opportunity
- The feeling of fresh air on your skin