Practising Gratitude: A Beginner’s Guide

You wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel engine and expect your car to get you from A to B. Yet, so many of us begin our day on a bad note and find our whole day fails to run smoothly.

Gratitude is like fuelling your tank with an energy source that fills you up with serenity, peace, happiness, and joy and propels you towards your goals. It helps you cultivate a mindset that sets you up for success.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is many things. It is a skill, a practice, a feeling, and an investment in your health and happiness. It’s the process of finding the positives and seeing the good in every situation, even during times of struggle. It’s a guaranteed way to set you up for the day ahead.

By laser focusing on the things that bring you peace, happiness, and joy, you can begin to draw in more of the same.

Gratitude isn’t a one-time thing. It requires a conscious effort and is something that is best practised each and every day. The good news is, the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. With consistent practice, being grateful, even during times of adversity, becomes an automatic habit.

Why do you need to practice gratitude consistently?

Our minds are actually hard-wired to seek out the negatives. It’s a protective mechanism that has shielded us from threats since humankind began.

Researchers call it the ‘negativity bias’. Put simply, our brains register negative stimuli more readily than positive or neutral experiences and are more likely to dwell on these events. It’s the very reason that when your boss gives you 10 pieces of praise and one small critique, you tend to focus on the latter.

The solution? Gratitude. Gratitude helps you overcome this tendency to focus on the negatives by empowering you to recognise and appreciate all the positives in your life, not just occasionally, but daily.

Eliminate the caveats

How often have you said the words ‘I’ll be grateful when…’ or included words like ‘if only’ and ‘but’ in your gratitude practice? Phrases like ‘I’m grateful but…’ limit gratitude’s power. They place expectations on our gratitude and take us away from the present moment.

In order to be truly grateful, there can be no ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ or ‘whens’. We need to feel truly appreciative of what we have now, in the present moment, not what we may have in the future.

Practising gratitude: How to get started

If you want to make gratitude a daily practice that improves your life, keep reading for lots of tips and tricks to get you started. When you practice gratitude twice a day, every day, you’ll really see and feel the difference.

  1. Use a gratitude journal. The Head Plan Gratitude Journal allows you to create a gratitude habit by documenting what you’re most grateful for in less than five minutes a day - and it has a huge impact on your wellbeing. SHOP NOW.

  2. Set reminders and use prompts. You could commit to finding five things you’re grateful for while the kettle boils or set a reminder to practice gratitude at a particular point of the day. Find ways to make gratitude a part of your daily routine to ensure the habit sticks.

  3. Do it when you first wake up. Say what you’re grateful for out loud or in your mind to ensure you get your day off to the best start.

  4. Be grateful before bed. What we expose our minds to in the 45 minutes before sleep, gets repeated by our subconscious minds up to six times during the night. Focusing on gratitude in these precious moments can ensure you wake up happy.

  5. Find someone to practice gratitude with. It could be your partner, a friend or even a work colleague. Get into the habit of asking each other ‘what are the three things you are most grateful for right now?’ at a particular point in the day.

  6. Try gratitude meditations. These can amplify your practice and make gratitude a whole-body experience. You can find some of our personal favourites HERE.

  7. Practice mindfulness. Look out and feel grateful for those moment-by-moment sources of pleasure, like a beautiful sunset, hearing your favourite song, enjoying a sip of herbal tea or being close to a loved one. When you’re mindful, you’ll find an abundance of things to be grateful for.

  8. Express gratitude for people around you. Research shows that gratitude has the power to strengthen relationships. Begin recognising the positive impact of the people around you, and be sure to tell them just how grateful you are for the things they do.

  9. Practice small acts of kindness. Kindness is an expression of gratitude and paying it forward won’t just make the recipient of your actions feel good, it’s scientifically proven to boost your feelings of happiness too. Go ahead and show someone how grateful you are.

  10. Write a letter of gratitude to yourself. Put pen to paper and write out all the reasons you are grateful for the person you are, whether it’s your kind and loving nature or your grit and determination to succeed. Remember to practice self-compassion; you’re always doing the best you can.

  11. Practice gratitude with the kids. Getting other people involved can amplify gratitude’s power. If you’ve got kids, encourage them to grab a post-it note, write down what they’re grateful for every day, and put it in a jar. Keep it somewhere you can see it throughout the day.

Gratitude is a choice. It’s not about having certain material possessions or accomplishing specific things in your life or career. Each and every one of us can choose to appreciate our lives – and ourselves – as they are now.

Research shows that happiness doesn’t bring you gratitude. In fact, it is the other way around. To feel happy, you first need to be grateful. The good news is that anyone can consistently practice gratitude. You can decide right now to be grateful each and every day.