Through many of life's challenges and hardships, there are people, experiences, and others that support us and help us continue forward. Finding gratitude means purposefully acknowledging those people and things that help bring you joy, comfort, and support in your daily life. Gratitude is not just appreciating the good in our lives but understanding how those people and things are essential and influential in our lives. Gratitude meditation practice can help foster greater gratitude in your life. Gratitude can help with many aspects of life and health, including improving interpersonal relationships, decreasing stress, and improving overall well-being.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude describes positive feelings of thankfulness for people, situations, or experiences in your life that are important to you and your growth. Gratitude can be for people such as family, friends, and romantic partners. Gratitude can also be beneficial for your health, home, or experiences. One way to approach gratitude is to focus on the positive aspects of your life and where those positive aspects come from or what contributes to them. Fostering gratitude requires evaluating your life, both the good and positive aspects, and the challenges. Gratitude helps one show the people in their lives how thankful they are for them and cultivate empathy and reciprocation in those relationships. Gratitude can also help build sympathetic joy, which is when you feel happy for others when they are happy, accomplished, or experiencing joy. Sympathetic joy can help improve your outlook on others and decrease negative feelings for others, such as jealousy or resentment.
What gratitude is not
There may be some misinterpretations of what gratitude really is. Gratitude is not the same as appreciation. Appreciation is just pointing out the good in people and things. The difference lies in that gratitude reflects how people and things positively impact your life and work to support you throughout your lifetime. Appreciation is often a fleeting feeling. In contrast, gratitude is a more permanent outlook on life.
Gratitude may also be confused with optimism. Optimism is mainly focused on reaching positive outcomes and looking toward the future. Gratitude is more focused on the present moment. Gratitude focuses on what you are thankful for in your life in the present. Gratitude can lead to increased optimism and a positive attitude towards the future, but they are not the same.
Lastly, gratitude is not the same as toxic positivity. Toxic positivity often pushes you to ignore the challenges and hardships in life. It diminishes or negates the negative experiences in life. It also tends to promote the suppression of negative emotions. With gratitude, it is essential to acknowledge the complex and challenging parts of life while expressing appreciation and gratitude for what helps support you through those times.
What is gratitude meditation?
Gratitude meditation can incorporate traditional meditation techniques such as mindfulness by adding gratitude and appreciation thoughts. Mindfulness practice involves centering oneself on the present at the moment and acknowledging one’s internal thoughts. Mindful awareness helps recognize the negative feelings and thoughts that arise where gratitude will help with redirecting or pairing those negative thoughts with thoughts of gratitude. Mindfulness also allows you to think and reflect upon your gratitude without distraction and be genuinely present in those thoughts.
Another meditation style that can help to promote gratitude is loving kindness meditation. Loving kindness meditation primarily focuses on generating positive feelings towards oneself and towards others. Loving kindness meditation will focus on sending positive thoughts and feelings towards others, expressing gratitude for others, and experiencing joy for others' happiness. It also fosters greater empathy for oneself and a positive self image.
Benefits of gratitude meditation
Gratitude meditation can lead to higher levels of overall well-being. Studies have shown that consistent gratitude meditation increases happiness, reduces stress and anxiety levels, and reduces depressive symptoms. In addition, gratitude meditation increases optimism and positive emotions about the future. Gratitude meditation can decrease mental stress levels which can lead to other health benefits. Reduced stress can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, which improves heart health. Decreased stress can also enhance sleep quality, immune response, and mental health.
Gratitude can also help with coping with challenges and difficult life experiences. It can help foster positive coping mechanisms for getting through challenging life periods. Gratitude meditation is a protective factor for reducing the chance of turning to negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse. Gratitude can also help direct you to the people who can support you through those difficult moments. Overall, gratitude can help decrease negative emotions such as anger and negative thought patterns.
One of gratitude’s benefits is that it can foster and enrich personal relationships in your life. Studies have shown that romantic partners who express gratitude towards each other have stronger and healthier relationships. The positive effects of gratitude have been linked to increasing levels of the hormone oxytocin, an essential hormone for social connection. A gratitude practice can help increase positive feelings towards those people in your life and foster a more reciprocal relationship. Expressing gratitude towards people in your life has been shown to be beneficial even when it is not directly expressed to someone. Using techniques such as writing gratitude letters without sending them can help increase positive emotions and feelings towards those people in your life.
Techniques to foster gratitude
As discussed prior, mindfulness meditation is a practice that can help to increase gratitude. When practicing gratitude focused mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques can be incorporated when experiencing negative emotions. During the mindfulness meditation, when negative thoughts and feelings arise, take a deep breath and breathe through these negative emotions. Then, shifting focus towards positive thoughts of gratefulness can help to foster gratitude within the mindfulness practice.
Another technique that can help to foster gratitude is to practice gratitude affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself either aloud or in your head. Gratitude affirmations could include sayings such as “I am grateful for the people in my life” or “I am grateful for how I have grown from challenges.” These affirmations can help increase your positive energy, increase self compassion, and foster gratitude for others.
Gratitude journaling can be another tool for increasing gratitude. Writing down what you are grateful for that day or counting your blessings can be incorporated into journaling. It may be helpful to create a routine or ritual to practice gratitude. This could include outlining a set time of day to practice gratitude, such as right in the morning or before bed. Gratitude can also be combined with other practices such as yoga or other body movement and mindful practices.
Gratitude Meditation Q&A
How long does gratitude practice take to show benefits?
The benefits of practicing gratitude may take time to appear. Some studies show that the benefits began to appear 4 to 12 weeks of consistent gratitude practice
It is essential to be consistent and patient when incorporating gratitude in your own life
It may be helpful to find a consistent time in your day to meditate
How to start practicing gratitude meditation?
Follow guided meditation.
Read guides to gratitude meditation online.
Start a gratitude journal.
Start daily gratitude affirmations.
Practice counting blessings
Examples of what you can feel grateful for
Being grateful for friends and family
Feeling grateful for where you live
Being grateful for our job and hobbies
Being grateful for our accomplishments
Expressing gratitude for positive and challenging experiences that helped you grow
Gratitude for the things that you own that support you in your life