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Self-Help Gratitude

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What is gratitude?

  • Recognizing and acknowledging the support, help, and affirmation that we have received from others
  • Noticing that there is good in the world
  • Noticing that we have been provided with gifts
  • The quality of being thankful
  • Readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

What can gratitude do?

  • Motivate positive and helpful behaviors
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Improve our physical health (e.g., boost immunity, lower blood pressure, bring balance to the nervous system)
  • Increase emotional well-being
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Promote forgiveness

What gets in the way of gratitude?

  • Self-serving bias: Attributing good things to yourself and attributing bad things to others or circumstances
    • Gratitude broadens our attributions beyond ourselves and includes other people
  • Control: Need to feel in control of your life circumstances
    • Gratitude allows us to accept and appreciate life for what it is, even the things beyond our control
  • Just-world hypothesis: Everyone gets what they deserve – good people will get good things and bad people will get bad things in life
    • Gratitude helps us realize that we are offered more than we deserve and shifts us away from feeling entitled

What are some ways to practice gratitude?

Below are some gratitude exercises taken and adapted from the Greater Good in Action: Science-based Practices for a Meaningful Life website:

  • Savoring Walk
    • Schedule 20 minutes to walk outside by yourself.
    • While walking, notice as many positive things around you. You may use your 5 senses to help you better notice your surroundings. Some things you may notice can be the warmth of the sun on your shoulders, smell of flowers, beauty in the architecture of buildings, or the smell of fresh air.
    • Acknowledge each of the positive things you notice in your mind rather than letting them slip away. Pause and really take in each positive thing into your awareness. Identify what it is about this thing that makes it positive for you.
    • Take a different walking route each time you engage in this exercise.
  • Three good things
    • Remember or list 3 positive things that happened today.
    • Consider what caused these things.
    • Tune into the sources of goodness.
  • Gratitude Journal
    • Write up to 5 things that you are grateful for on paper. This can be about a positive experience, person, or object. The thing can be something minor (e.g., the waffle you ate for breakfast) or major (e.g., receiving an achievement award). Savor the positive emotions that arise as you reflect on each of the positive things.
  • Refer to the Greater Good in Action website for more exercises