While the holidays are upon us, and we have a lot to be grateful for, the question is whether or not we fully grasp the bounty that surround us.  Gratitude is not just a way to simply acknowledge the good things in our lives, ticking off boxes on a list, but rather a time-stamp and accounting for the many beautiful gifts we are given.   

The effects of practicing gratitude are well-documented. According to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, there are physical (better sleep, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure), psychological (more alert, more happy), and social (more outgoing, more compassionate) benefits to be gained. Reserving one day out of the year for giving thanks isn’t enough to reap the full range of benefits. Gratitude requires more action.

Here are five ways to practice gratitude daily:

  1. Just like your fitness schedule, set aside a specific time of day to recount all the things you’re grateful for. This can be a list of good things that happened in your day, or anything in your life you’re grateful for at the moment. There is no rule to this, but if you practice gratitude daily, you will train those brain muscles to see all the good in your life and focus less on the negative. 
  2. Keep a journal. This can be in any form, but you will find that writing it out by hand is both therapeutic and more meaningful than doing so on an app. The book “Listful Living,” by author Paula Rizzo, contains whole sections laid out in journal form. Completing these sections will help you remain clear on your priorities in every area of your life, while teaching you best practices for journaling. 
  3. Include the little things. The composite of our lives includes moments great and small. Having a good hair day, or not having to wait in line for your Starbucks, might be something very meaningful to you. No matter how seemingly trivial or obscure, it’s worthy, so note it!  
  4. Ask others. Make it a practice to ask other people what they are grateful for. Even a simple question like “what good thing happened to you today?” or “what are you experiencing that is bringing you joy?” will not only make your gratitude practice a habit, but it will also bring happiness to anyone in whom you take interest. 
  5. Surround yourself with others who practice gratitude. Edit your friend list and put those who practice joy at the top. You control your time and whose in it, so make space for anyone who lifts you up and sets an example for living with gratitude. 

For some, gratitude is inherently personal. However, quiet reflection is less effective than expressing gratitude directly to the people you’re thankful to have in your life. Next time you’re browsing the bookstore aisles, grab a pack of Thank You cards. These have almost become historical relics, reserved as perfunctory tokens for wedding guests and gift-givers. What a rare delight to receive a Thank You card from somebody who’s grateful just for knowing you! 

For those disinclined to writing, take action. Invite your friends and co-workers out for coffee, and tell them why they’re appreciated. Publicly thank people in group settings. Text someone a thank-you emoji. A small act of gratitude can go a long way―for you and for the person on the receiving end.

Written by Kara Harrison