Cultivate - and Harvest - Gratitude With These Simple Steps

Cultivating Gratitude Through Meditation

Want to be happier, healthier, and have better relationships? Finding ways to be grateful is one of the easiest ways to do it.

Research shows that focusing on gratitude will also allow you to be more optimistic about your future, feel stronger during hard times, make progress toward important goals, feel less stress, and even sleep better. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Meditation may help to cultivate a grateful outlook on your life. Even if you’re not experienced with formal meditation, you can do many small things to improve your attitude of gratitude. Use the following ideas to get you thinking about gratitude daily.

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Gratitude meditation

Gratitude helps us to balance anger and frustration with positive feelings. Meditation is a good way to help cultivate openness and thankfulness in your life. Your meditation doesn’t have to be forced or contrived. Just do what feels comfortable.

The following steps can guide your practice.

  1. Get relaxed. Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths while you become aware of your environment. Take in the smells, the sounds, the way you feel.
  2. Think about the people in your life for whom you’re grateful. Imagine each one. Think about their faces and why you’re grateful for them.
  3. Next, think about yourself and your unique gifts and blessings. Let yourself be grateful for each of these things individually.
  4. Next, think about anything else in your life you have to be grateful for — your health, job, etc.
  5. Return to your breath – take about 15 seconds to return to your breath. That’s how long it takes for these positive thoughts to enter emotional memory.

Remember, your personal mediation doesn’t need to be long to be effective. Just taking time every day to focus on your blessings can be beneficial.

Keep a gratitude journal

Writing in a journal is a therapeutic exercise for many people. You can record in your journal things you’d never say out loud. Focusing on a gratitude journal will allow you to think about the many things you have to be grateful for.

These tips can help:

  • Get deep. Instead of writing long lists of things you’re grateful for, focus on one or two things and elaborate about why you’re grateful for that particular thing.
  • Write weekly. Research has shown that gratitude journaling may be more effective when you write once a week rather than every day.
  • Journal with a purpose. Often the purpose of gratitude journaling is to become happier. When you focus on that, rather than just going through the motions, your journaling will be more effective.
  • Focus on people rather than things.
  • Record unexpected events or surprises you’re grateful for.
  • Think about things in reverse. How would your life be different without specific blessings?

Bonus: You’ll be able to re-read your entries on hard days and remember the good in your life.

Write a gratitude letter

Write down a list of several people who’ve had a positive impact on your life, and write a thank-you letter to one (or more) of them. Express your gratitude for them and for how they’ve blessed your life. Often, your recipient won’t realize the blessing they have been to you. Although you may have already expressed appreciation for this person verbally, a letter is special because it can be re-read and treasured for years to come. Read or deliver the letter in person if possible.

Pay attention

The world is full of beautiful and fascinating things. Take time every day to pay attention to these things. Notice nature’s beauty during your morning run. Savor the smell of your dinner or lunch. Notice a beautiful sunset. Soak in the smiles of your family and friends. Laugh at the antics of children. Marvel at the engineering it took to build your car or home. As best you’re able, pay attention to these things for about 15 seconds. That’s how long it takes for something positive to enter emotional memory.

No matter where you are, when you pay attention, you can find beauty. It just takes a conscious effort to notice these things. Then you’ll be ready to feel gratitude for them, too.