Adopting an Attitude of Gratitude: Why and How to Make Gratitude a Habit

Adopting an Attitude of Gratitude: Why and How to Make Gratitude a Habit

By Andrea Biel, PsyD

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, ‘tis the season to be grateful. Yet, what if we were to adopt an attitude of gratitude year-round? According to existing research, the practice of gratitude is linked to increases in life satisfaction, decreases in depression, and improved emotional and physical well-being. Here’s the great thing, we all have the capacity to experience gratitude. In fact, according to the Values in Action Classification of Strengths, gratitude is one of 24 character strengths every individual innately possesses to varying degrees. The challenge lies in intentionally flexing this strength on a regular basis to boost up gratitude and experience the ripple effect of positivity it creates.

So how do we foster gratitude in a way that extends beyond going around the Thanksgiving dinner table and makes its way into our daily lives? Here are some tips and tricks to turn gratitude into a habit rather than simply a holiday tradition:

  1. Set a gratitude alarm. – The key to habit-making is creating time and maintaining consistency. A mobile ‘gratitude alarm’ can help keep you accountable. Set a recurring, daily alarm/notification to jumpstart or wind down your day with gratitude. If you notice yourself being unmotivated or distracted at the time this notice goes off, consider alternative times of day in which you may be more open to engaging in this practice.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. – Writing down what you are grateful for can enhance your ability to focus on and transcend into a place of gratitude. Utilizing a gratitude journal, you create a dedicated space for routine expression and reflection.
  3. Complete the Three Good Things exercise. – Naming three things that went well in a day, no matter how big or small, will allow you to flex your gratitude strength, boost awareness of your use of other personal strengths, and shift your perspective toward positivity. Simply reflect, record, and review!
  4. Write a gratitude letter. – Address a gratitude letter to others or to yourself. In doing this, you reap the benefits of recognizing there are external and internal sources of goodness. This can enrich your relationships with others as well as your relationship with yourself.
  5. Take a Mindful Minute. – Writing not your thing? The key ingredient is being mindful or bringing awareness and attention to gratitude. Simply taking a minute to cherish the present or call to mind what/who you are grateful for can be sufficient. In this practice, consider tapping into your senses (i.e., sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) to help you savor the moment and experience gratitude for your ability to connect and experience the world around you.

Here’s the takeaway – gratitude doesn’t have to come and go with the holiday season. By readily incorporating gratitude into your daily routine, you can increase your capacity to experience fulfillment and wellness. Interested in learning more about gratitude, character strengths, and ways to maximize strengths-based living? Consider reading more here or consulting a therapist at the Ross Center who may assist you in fostering your strengths and sense of well-being.