For as long as I can remember, I’ve always known that ‘thank you’ could make others feel happy, special, and appreciated. Yet, it wasn’t until my adulthood that I came to fully understand that those two words had just as much of a positive effect on the person saying it as it did on the person hearing it.
The idea of gratitude, however, goes far beyond just saying ‘thank you’. Being grateful means being fully aware, present, and mindful of what is happening around you at all times. It means appreciating both the positive and the negative, and being able to say, with an open heart, that you are thankful for all experiences and the wisdom that comes from them. As we work on living a more conscious life, the start of a gratitude practice is a natural progression. Practicing gratitude provides the opportunity to also practice mindfulness. Each of these elements fit together like pieces of the same puzzle.
Starting a gratitude practice doesn’t have to mean incorporating a new, time-consuming routine into our already full lives. It also doesn’t have to be intimidating or emotional or burdensome. A gratitude practice can be as big or as small as you want it to be.
Here are four ways that you can start practicing gratitude today.
KEEP A GRATITUDE JAR
All you need to start is a jar, paper, and pen. At the end of every day, grab a piece of paper from anywhere. I use pieces of envelope from old mail. On each piece, write down something good that happened that day. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant. It just has to be something that you’re happy to have experienced. The best part of this exercise is sitting down at the start of a new year and going through all of the notes in the jar, as a way to remember all of the experiences from the previous year and start you on the right foot for the year ahead.
WRITE A LETTER
Take a moment to express to someone how they’ve had an impact on your life, reflecting on what they did for you and why it matters so much. A few years ago, I wrote my letter to a music executive who helped me land my very first magazine internship the summer before I started college. It was a job that very much shaped my future career path. Once you’re done writing the letter, it’s not a must that you actually send it, though I’m sure that the subject of your letter would be very thankful if you did.
SEND THANK YOU CARDS
Most people love to receive cards, particularly when they’re not expecting them. Also, the benefit of sending a card is that you can say as little or as much as you want in your note — the gesture of giving the card is, in itself, a noteworthy expression of gratitude. Set aside time, once or twice a year, to send a thank you card to someone who you appreciate, whether it’s a mentor, friend, or your parents.
JUST SAY IT
This is the simplest and most straightforward form of gratitude, because it doesn’t require any one else to be in the room. Take a few seconds before you go to sleep each night to say thank you for all of the things that happened that day. It doesn’t have to be monumental — in fact it almost never is. It’s always the small things that stick out the most in our minds, and those small things are what we most often forget to say thank you for.