Terri K. Lankford, LPCS
The Gratitude Formula
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you’re likely hearing and thinking a lot about gratitude and thankfulness. You may even incorporate a family tradition of going around the table during the actual Thanksgiving meal and naming one thing each family member is grateful for. Traditions like these remind us to take nothing for granted - in a time where affordable housing, food security, and civil rights aren’t guaranteed, we can express gratitude for the “little things”, like stable housing, knowing where our next meal is coming from, and feeling safe.
Gratitude, however, isn’t just for Thanksgiving! Terri Lankford, owner and CEO of Rise and Thrive Counseling, defines gratitude as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation.” The benefits of gratitude expand far beyond making us feel good in the moment. For example, having a daily gratitude practice can increase our mental health, better our relationships, and make us more resilient. Physically, gratitude increases our mood, improves our sleep quality, and strengthens our immune system. It pays off to show gratitude!
How do you practice gratitude on a daily basis? Check out our formula for gratitude from the holistic experts at Rise and Thrive Counseling below!
The first step in seeing benefits from your gratitude practice? Give it time. Studies show gratitude practices do bring positive benefits, but it may take several months for the best benefits to show. Not only do gratitude practices work best over a long-term time commitment, but they work best when time is set aside every day.
One easy example of a long-term, daily gratitude practice is a morning gratitude session. Before getting out of bed, put a hand on your heart. Name three things you’re grateful for. Even a practice as short and simple like this has positive impacts on your health and mood in the long-term.
While our prior paragraph may make it seem like gratitude is as simple as rapid-fire naming three random themes in your life that are positive, that’s far from the truth. Gratitude is just spilling words without intention. Intention is a purpose, meaning, and driving factor behind words and actions. When you begin your gratitude practice, it should be with intention - with the idea that you’ll really put genuine thought, time, and effort into your practice.
One way to show intention while practicing gratitude is to start a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a concrete, tangible way to see what you’re grateful for. Keeping a journal really takes intention - it means buying a notebook and pen, deliberately setting aside time to write, and moving pen on paper to manifest what you’re grateful for. This is a slightly higher-investment gratitude practice than a meditation, so it can be a way to really show your intention.
Our final step in our formula for gratitude practice success: reflection. Remember how we mentioned gratitude isn’t about spilling random words onto a page or into the Universe? Reflection is one way we harness our intent and our time. Reflection is looking back on our day, week, or even life and considering: what happened? What meaning did I assign to things that happened? What really stood out to me?
In a gratitude practice, reflection may look like a gratitude meditation. This is a practice Buddhist monks perform in the morning daily. A gratitude meditation involves finding a quiet space (time), giving our attention to our thoughts (intention), and looking inside ourselves to see what we are grateful for (reflection). Spend 10-15 minutes (or whatever is comfortable for you!) sitting in silence and keeping your attention on things that make you feel grateful.
There you have it: the formula for a successful gratitude practice is time + intention + reflection! If you want to learn more about gratitude, check out our five part blog series on intention here. If you’d rather talk about it, come see us! At Rise and Thrive, our holistic counselors are grateful for folx who are willing to be vulnerable and share their healing journey with us. Reach out today; we look forward to hearing from you!