When it comes to effective life hacks, gratitude is at the top of the list. A consistent gratitude practice has been proven to improve a wide range of areas in our lives, including: physical and psychological health, relationships, self-esteem, sleep, mental strength, and increased empathy.
By tapping into gratitude, we can instantly shift from anger to compassion, from blame to empathy, and from fear to trust.
I’ve been experimenting with a daily gratitude practice for almost 5 years. In that time, I’ve gained some insights about what works, and what doesn’t work, over the long term. In my experience, I have found that to supercharge gratitude practice requires doing 3 things.
(1) Feel It
To reap the rewards of gratitude it’s not enough to write it down.
All rituals run the risk of veering into automaticity, or habit. And although we’d like to cultivate a habit of gratitude, we run the risk of disassociating from our gratitude when we simply write it down and turn it into a reflexive mental exercise. This defeats the purpose of the practice and is one of the reasons people quit.
As I wrote previously, to fully reap the benefits you must feel grateful, not just write down what you’re grateful for.
Gratitude must come from the heart, not the head. It’s an emotion, not a rationalization.
To be clear, writing down things you’re grateful for can be useful. Ideally you want to do both: feel into it and then write it down.
(2) Receive It
You can’t give what you are unwilling to receive. If you don’t open to receive gratitude from others, you won’t be able to feel gratitude to others.
When someone expresses gratitude towards you, whether in the form of a simple “thank you” or a more elaborate tribute or gift, receive the offering with grace. Fully soak in the appreciation. Allow yourself to be seen in what you did.
Don’t blow it off or deflect with “no problem” or “it was nothing.”
The more you can soak in the appreciation that others share for the small things you do, the more you will notice the small things that others do for you. And that you do for yourself. (More on that another time.)
(3) Express It
Feeling grateful, writing down your gratitude, and receiving appreciation create a powerful platform for your gratitude practice. To supercharge your practice, share your gratitude with others.
What we share increases exponentially.
It’s one thing to feel it, and another to express it.
How you express your gratitude is up to you. You can write a note, send an email or text, call someone, announce it publicly, send a gift, or do some other action that shows your gratitude.
Whichever way you choose, keep in mind three levels of expression.
This is obvious. If you are grateful to a particular person, express your gratitude to that person. Let people know that you appreciate them. Also let them know why. Whether it’s something specific that they did for you or just how you feel when you see them, people like to hear how they contribute.
Sharing your gratitude with the person you appreciate makes them feel great. And you’ll feel great for telling them.
Share Your Experiential Gratitude
“Experiential gratitude” is what I call any gratitude that isn’t directed toward a specific person. For example, it’s gratitude for being able to see the sunset, or for warm weather.
When we share our experiential gratitude with others, we give them a gift by opening them to miracles that they otherwise might not have seen.
If you’ve ever had a bad day, and then someone sat down next to you and shared that they were grateful because the sun was shining, you’ve experienced the power of this.
We all get wrapped up in our little “me bubble” periodically. In those moments, hearing someone else express gratitude could be just what we need to snap out of it.
This is a gift you can give others that will deliver returns to you. Because when you brighten someone else’s day in this way, you’ll feel amazing too.
Share Specific Gratitude Beyond the Source
If you really want to create magic, there’s another level: share the gratitude you feel toward a specific person with other people.
We can underestimate what it takes to brighten someone’s day. It’s one thing to share your gratitude that the sun is shining. It’s another thing to share your gratitude about what someone else did for you.
When you tell someone of the kindness that someone else bestowed on you, you reinforce to others that there are good people in the world. That not everyone has ulterior motives. That it doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day.
When you share your gratitude toward one person with others, you show them what’s possible in this world.
That’s a tremendous gift to give to others and yourself. You’ll lift others up with hope and you’ll lift yourself too.
To get the benefits of daily gratitude practice you must do three things:
- Feel gratitude
- Receive gratitude
- Express gratitude
As a bonus, if you journal about the gratitude after doing all three of these things, you’ll find the writing part much more meaningful.
Give it a try for a week and let me know how it’s working for you. Share your results in the comments.