Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Maybe you’ve experienced this at a Thanksgiving dinner: At some point, someone suggests going around the table to say what you’re thankful for. You feel butterflies in your stomach as you try to come up with a meaningful nugget on the spot. You always come up with something—friends, family, cranberry sauce. Once you’re finished, you remember all the things you wish you’d said. Now, even though it hadn’t been top of mind before, you’re actually feeling that flood of gratitude for many things—and it feels good.
Everyday we’re barraged with the many challenges we all face in this world, but we have very few external stimuli pointing out what’s positive. It’s up to us to do this for ourselves. The good news is, just like around that Thanksgiving table, once you sit down and try, your gratitude list grows (and grows). Once it does, there’s a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that practicing gratitude regularly improves your well-being in more ways than one.
5 Ways to Get Started with a Gratitude Practice
1. Start small.
Meditation Studio teacher Ashley Turner suggests being grateful for the basics…starting with simply being able to sit. From there, you might expand to the fact that you have food to eat, a roof over your head, and so on.
2. Write it down.
Gratitude experts, from psychologists to Oprah, believe that keeping a journal, a place to list just a handful of things each week or day, has a tremendous cumulative effect on your outlook.
3. Be detailed.
The catchy tune of a new pop song, the sound of a friend’s laughter, the color of your partner’s eyes—these little things count! And they add up in your mind and heart.
4. Visualize each thing.
Mindfulness expert and Meditation Studio teacher Elisha Goldstein recommends not just making a gratitude list but also experiencing each item in your mind’s eye. Spending more time to think about each thing helps strengthen the neural connections between positive memories and the rest of your brain
5. Use a meditation to guide you.
If you’re not in the habit of practicing gratitude, try a this meditation.