As we enter a new year, many of us contemplate developing new habits with the desire to enrich our lives. While some of these resolutions can be lofty goals, one simple practice of expressing gratitude or keeping a gratitude list can have a lasting impact. A weekly planner or wall calendar is a wonderful place to jot down your lists and then reflect back on them at the end of the year.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Here’s more from the Harvard Health Publishing website:
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis:
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
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