As we find ourselves juggling jam-packed social schedules, hurrying to finalize projects at work and staring down, what seems to be, unrelenting pressure to manage all of our responsibilities, we often forget to stop and practice gratitude.
That's right: gratitude. Allow me to take it back to simpler, less frantic times for just a moment.
When I was younger, my mother would encourage me and my brothers to take turns sharing what we were most grateful for before overindulging in food or holiday festivities. At first, we dreaded it. We didn't understand why speaking gratitude was important. Then, we rushed it. We just wanted to get right to all that glistened before us—our favorite dishes, new toys, abundance and more, more, more! But, as our mother persisted, we eventually learned the practice of appreciation.
You see, grateful living transcends Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.
The concept and practice of expressing gratitude daily is one that comes with many benefits. Not only will taking time to give thanks for the here-and-now and current-haves alleviate some seasonal stress, practicing gratitude can also improve relationships and help foster new connections, improve physical health, enhance empathy while reducing aggression, improve our quality of sleep and much more. Practicing gratitude is incredibly important to our overall health.
So, let me ask you this: How are you practicing gratitude in your life? Are you a seasonal practitioner or are you someone who incorporates gratitude into your life yearlong? If anything, the end of the year is a great time to reflect on all the wonderful things we experienced or to even consider the beneficial lessons that grew from some of our toughest disappointments—and simply say "Thank you."
If you're looking to grow your gratitude practice, I have a few quick ideas! Make a commitment to better wellness by incorporating these three, simple gratitude activities each day:
List It! Keep a notepad at your bedside and jot down the things you're most grateful for before starting your day. Be sure to add to it before calling it a night. Lists are easier to keep for people who might be less inclined to writing but, if you're a writer, consider expanding your list into a daily journal entry.
Say It! Share your appreciative thoughts and feelings with others around you. Simple courtesies like "thank you" or "I appreciate you/that" may seem like good manners but can also produce a ripple effect wherever you are. If verbal expressions of gratitude or sharing your feelings is a challenge, start small! A handwritten note or sweet gesture will do just as well.
Be Present! This can be approached two ways. Mindfulness, or being aware of your surroundings and the sensations or thoughts you experience within them, can be a way to practice gratitude. People who appreciate nature may be inclined to spend more time outdoors (think: taking a walk, tending a garden or maybe sitting on a beach enjoying the beauty of the ocean.) Being present might also mean appreciating your relationships and the company of others without distraction. Try leaving your computer behind or putting your cellphone away while meeting a friend or colleague for lunch. This also results in establishing deeper connections with those around you because they will most likely feel valued, heard and respected.
What are some ways that you practice gratitude in your life?
Asha Ellison is the Communications Manager for Girls on the Run International, where she works to keep the GOTR world connected. Asha, also a mental health professional, believes in teaching girls (she has five nieces!) that the power of their dreams exists without bounds or limitations. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, creating inspirational videos and eating too many macarons!
This article was republished with permission and originally appeared at Girls on the Run.