Fresh Views

Expressing Gratitude: 6 Strategies To Get Started 

Deb’s gratitude bird waiting to be “fed” a message of gratitude

I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.

~Will Arnett

Expressing gratitude is something we strongly believe in and practice in our daily lives. The expression of gratitude and acknowledging things that have gone well in the day is a powerful tool in solution-focused practice. We’ve written about gratitude many times in this blog. 

Recently when traveling in Colorado, Deb happened upon a unique art shop and was called to two beautiful “gratitude birds” (pictured above and below). She knew immediately that we needed them. Each morning, we start the day by “feeding” our gratitude birds with a daily message or two (or three) of things we are grateful for. Some are big, some are the tiny things in life. Today as we write, Deb is grateful for her kitties and Tami is grateful for the sunshine and spring daffodils ready to burst into bloom. Gratitude does not need to be huge or all encompassing, a simple statement can start your day off in a positive direction.

The simple definition of gratitude is “a feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; thankfulness.”  But the practice of gratitude means so much more.

Gratitude is good for health

Practicing gratitude is powerful. While the relationship is not fully understood, positive emotions such as expressing gratitude, are linked to healthier lifestyle choices. And healthy lifestyle choices including healthy eating and being active are in turn linked to overall health. 

According to the American Heart Association, several clinical trials show that engaging in a practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure and help the immune system. It’s also been noted that grateful people have healthier eating habits, are more physically active, have improved sleep, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of taking medications as prescribed. Several studies suggest that gratitude can decrease stress and anxiety by activating the areas in the brain that release feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. It’s difficult to feel sorry for yourself or feel down if you’re practicing gratitude.

Today we offer 6 strategies to help develop daily gratitude habits

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. For us recently, when we pick up our 5-minute daily journal which we shared about here, it prompts us to record those things we are grateful for in the day. Our personal goal is to identify at least 3 things daily for which we’re grateful. 
  2. Have gratitude reminders. These are simple cues to remind you to focus on gratitude daily. Maybe it’s an alarm on your phone, a bracelet or wristband, a photo, a magnet, or a post-it note. 
  3. Use gratitude apps. There are a number of apps with a range of capabilities including sending reminders, sharing uplifting thoughts, and organizing memories for which you are grateful. We shared some favorites in this post here.
  4. Practice sharing positive feedback with others. A little different angle on the practice of expressing gratitude, the next time a restaurant or store employee is helpful or you enjoy a product, tell others about your experience. Leave a positive review or tell managers about helpful, positive employees. That’s a simple but impactful way to express gratitude for great service.
  5. Start a gratitude box. Keeping a box (jar, album, folder, or whatever works for you) filled with notes, pictures, and moments you are grateful for can bring a boost when needed. 
  6. Listen, smile, be respectful and choose kindness. Applying this to solution-focused practice, our actions and treating others as we would like to be treated are another way to express gratitude. It lets others know that we value them.
Tami’s gratitude bird

3 tips to keep your gratitude practice going:

  1. Find a daily time to practice gratitude and try to be consistent. Maybe it’s when you get up in the morning. Maybe it’s before you go to bed at night. Maybe it’s when you’re exercising.
  2. Write what you feel. Don’t censor it.  
  3. Refrain from making the list repetitive. Pause, reflect and be specific about the small and the big things you are grateful for in the day.

If you are a health care professional and interested in learning more about our solution-focused practice and approach, when you subscribe to our blog, we’ll send you in return a FREE resource of 10 Solution-Focused Questions to start a solution-focused discussion with your clients. 

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Deb is employed by Dexcom, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.

Tami is employed by the University of Kentucky HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, but her words and opinions in this blog are her own.