What does practicing gratitude really mean?

Posted on: November 29th, 2021

This time of year, many of us are reflecting on what we have to be thankful or grateful for. The difference between the two can be a powerful distinction as we strengthen our mental health and build resilience, so let’s dig in. 

Being thankful is typically an automatic response of pleasure or relief to something someone does for us, or something we receive. Gratitude, on the other hand, tends to be a deeper emotional response to an appreciation toward one, or a series of occurrences that have truly made an impact on us. Practicing gratitude has been linked to a variety of benefits including increased happiness and decreased depression. Gratitude also enhances empathy while helping us build connections with others. So, what does practicing gratitude really mean and how can you strengthen this muscle? Here are a few tips toward building your gratitude practice:

  1. Practice mindful observation. Throughout your day, observe when and how often you thank others, and how this makes you feel. Is this a more automatic offering of thanks, or do you feel anything more deeply? 
  2. Get creative. Look outside of the standard areas you might think of, and reflect on new situations that may be allowing you to experience gratitude. Think little, think big, think old and new. There is an abundance of life and experience that we can tap into when we really look around.
  3. Reflect and record. Keeping a gratitude journal or jotting down a few things to be grateful for each day can be a real game changer. But, remember to go deeper and not broader when you reflect on how this makes you feel. Side tip: Sometimes reflecting on challenges can help us to see where we’ve been able to create change and overcome difficulties. This is where we might connect gratitude with more specifically how we were able to build resilience.
  4. Express your gratitude. Take the time to thoughtfully show your appreciation the next time someone does something that gives you that meaningful emotional response. This might be in a written, verbal, or other expressive response. Imagine what it feels like to receive that feedback of gratitude and focus on being genuine + authentic.
  5. Make it a habit. Whether it’s reflection, journaling, gratitude meditation, or another practice, schedule it into your daily routine. Make this easier by setting a calendar reminder or visual prompt encouraging a repetitive routine. This will more quickly train your brain to reap the rewards of gratitude practice. 

Finally, be sure to give yourself the time and compassion to let the practice of gratitude contribute toward your personal growth. It’s not easy to develop new habits, but the effort, time and benefit can result in some of the most rewarding life changes one can experience. 

Find more ways to practice gratitude at nobu.ai or download nobu wherever you get your apps. 

Angela Phillips, PhD, LICSW – Clinical Product Manager of Advanced Recovery Systems