Gratitude Practice: What It Is and Why It Works

Journaling, reflective thinking, letter-writing, and gratitude visits are some of the strategies that are utilized in developing a gratitude practice. Simply naming three things that you are grateful for is not enough. Gratitude is considered a virtue; therefore, requires mental discipline to develop. Daily practice is recommended for best results.

Robert Emmons Ph.D. is known as the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. Emmons has authored several books on gratitude, including Gratitude-Works! Emmons discovered from his research that people who regularly implement a gratitude practice can increase their happiness by 25%. In addition to the boost of happiness, those who implemented gratitude slept better and exercised more. An interesting finding is that it is hard to hold two emotions simultaneously. It is hard to feel frustrated, angry, or depressed when one experiences gratitude.

“Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness,” –Emmons

Brené Brown, a research professor who is well-known for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame states that “practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives”. I don’t know about you, but I would like to experience more joy in my life!

How Do I Cultivate Gratitude?

• Realize that gratitude is a virtue that required mental discipline to develop.

• Regularly implement gratitude daily by setting aside time each day.

• Share with others what you are grateful for; expand on the specific reasons why.

• Practice extending loving kindness to yourself and others.

• Be humble.

• Reflect on the things that you currently have that could lose (as these are not guaranteed).

• Reflect on life itself as a precious gift.

• Celebrate the present.

Implementing a gratitude practice is powerful. It helps increase awareness of what we do have. It helps us notice things that may otherwise go unnoticed or be taken for granted. This includes people, places, and things in our lives.

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Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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