The word “gratitude” originated in the mid-15th century and derives from the Latin word gratus, meaning “thankful” or “pleasing” (depending upon the context). The word’s definition today still embodies these two meanings because what we find pleasing is often something for which we are thankful. Through gratitude, we acknowledge the good things in our lives, whether intangible or tangible.
Many studies find that people who practice gratitude consistently report benefits that range from emotional resilience and improved physical health to career advantages and greater empathy. Gratitude, it turns out, is linked directly to happiness.
What’s especially powerful about practicing gratitude is that the process often shifts our focus away from ourselves and toward other people or our surroundings. As a result, we often feel more connected to others, nature, experiences and even the global community.
Practicing gratitude is gloriously simple. Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Create a gratitude calendar on which you jot down a few words specific to the good things that each day brings.
2. Write a note to someone with whom you have a difficult relationship or have experienced a rift. Thank them for the challenges he or she brings and humbly describe the lessons you’ve learned through your relationship.
3. Keep a gratitude journal by jotting down two or three things every day for which you are grateful.
4. Write a letter of gratitude to someone in your past—a teacher, colleague, boss, friend—who influenced your life positively. Or, even better, pay a visit and tell him or her how you feel in person.
5. Compliment people who you don’t normally praise. (Be sincere.)
6. Look out the window, or go outside, and find something beautiful to appreciate, such as the way the sun reflects off a surface, an architectural element on a building, a leaf blowing in the wind, grains of sand at the beach, etc.
7. Send a list of what makes you smile to Last Lemon and follow how they illustrate the submissions they receive in sketches on The Happy Page.
8. Text three people you love out of the blue and tell them what you appreciate about them.
9. Help someone else discover gratitude.
10. Share your feelings of gratitude with us via Facebook or Twitter. For what are you most grateful?