Every year, when the calendar pointer hits January 1st, we bask in the glow of a new year.
A fresh start. A clean slate. A renewed optimism. It’s an innate part of human nature – we look for opportunities to clear the proverbial canvas and start anew.
For some, that means creating a list of New Years resolutions; exercise more, indulge less. For others, it’s the physical act of making a monumental life change; be that starting a new job or moving to a new city. But for most of us, an effective fresh start needs to begin on the inside. And it can be as simple as expressing a little bit of good ol’ fashioned gratitude.
Being thankful for the gifts of life has many health benefits. Studies have shown it can reduce feelings of depression, decrease anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and even strengthen memory.
Here are a few easy ways to kick-start your gratitude practice – for a more centered, content you.
1. Daily top 3
Each day, consider three things you feel grateful for. They could be as simple as your warming morning tea or the delicious taste of your favorite fruit – or as profound as the roof over your head and clean drinking water. Tune in to the small details that make your life what it is, and take notice of what you might be taking for granted. It’s amazing what you see when you start paying attention.
2. Express gratitude to others
Show your appreciation to someone who did something kind – be it a total stranger or your best friend. Letting people know you acknowledged and appreciated their help will make you feel lighter and more joyous.
3. Focus on the good
Make it a habit to take time and focus on the things you’re thankful for in your life. Make a list of them in your mind, and say a big, earnest “thank you” for each one of them.
4. Acknowledge the struggles
It’s also important to focus on your struggles you’ve gone through, and say thanks for the unexpected ways you have gained from them. Maybe they uncovered a strength you didn’t know you had, or perhaps they brought you closer to your family, or revealed to you your true priorities. Be grateful for the tough times themselves, rather than the silver linings, because they may continue to offer you blessings you otherwise wouldn’t have.
5. Make it a mantra
Never underestimate the power of words. When you feel tense, stressed or sad – simply repeat the words “thank you” between deep, slow breaths to re-ground yourself. Sit in silence and really meditate on the words.
6. Pay it forward
A little kindness goes a long way. And one of the most meaningful ways to express gratitude is to act with kindness towards others. Return a favor. Surprise someone. See a situation you might be able to offer some help in and do it. The feeling afterwards will be golden.