By Alexa Barrera
Research in the psychology and neuroscience fields shows us that the practice of gratitude leads to a happier life. At its core, gratitude is a sense of appreciation for and recognition of the positive. It’s about acknowledging the value and significance of people, experiences and other aspects of our lives. When you’re able to see the good, whether it be small daily occurrences or significant life events, you feel a sense of connection and positivity as a result.
The benefits are significant: Studies suggest people who keep gratitude journals have better quality sleep and are generally more resilient when faced with difficulties. There is also research associating the practice of gratitude with lower levels of depression and anxiety, along with improved mental health. Beginning your morning with five minutes of gratitude can set the tone for a positive day. Here are a few examples of how you can do this.
Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie quietly in a relaxed position. Focus on your breath, taking deeper and deeper breaths to focus yourself. Bring your mind to moments that you are grateful for. These can be things that are simple or profound, from your cup of coffee to the support of loved ones. For each item, express gratitude by saying “Thank you” in your mind. Allow this time to also include a moment to set your intention for the hours ahead. This starts your day “on the bright side” and cultivates a sense of inner peace.
Incorporate gratitude affirmations into your morning routine. Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself. For example, you could say: “Each day is a gift, and I am thankful for the opportunities and possibilities that come with it.” or “I appreciate the moments of peace and quiet that mornings bring, allowing me to set positive intentions for the day.” Express gratitude for the day ahead, your capabilities and the opportunities that await you.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Create a gratitude journal and make it part of your morning routine. Start by writing down three things you are grateful for. These can be anything that brings joy, warmth or positivity to your heart. As you write them down, try to be specific. For example, instead of writing “I am grateful for my family,” you could write “I am grateful for the laughter shared with my family during our dinner.” The more you write in your gratitude journal, the more you will start to experience gratitude towards experiences or opportunities you had not previously considered. Take a moment occasionally to re-read your entries and relive those gratitude moments.
While these examples provide a structured way to practice daily gratitude, there is no right or wrong way to do it. The key is to approach it with an open mind and an open heart and to know that it is a powerful tool to enhance your mental, emotional and physical well-being. By embracing the habit, you will not only be cultivating a positive mindset for the day ahead but also investing in a happier, healthier life.
Alex Barrera has authored several publications on the topic of mindfulness and gratitude, including Start Your Day with Gratitude: 5 Minutes a Day to Transform Your Mind and Your Life. She is also the author of an adult colouring book, Mexican Patterns, that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Find her books and articles at bilingualbabies.ca.