Photo of a woman expressing a grateful heart.

Five ways to practice gratitude this winter and every day

insight Oct 28, 2022

As someone who has spent my share of winters in a northern climate, I am very familiar with the mindset that can develop when people spend most of their time indoors due to the cold, dreary weather.

I also know everything taking place in the world today -- a never-ending avalanche of headline-producing stories of gloom, doom and despair -- can really take its toll on anyone's outlook.

Lucy Purdy, blogging at Positive.News, shared her antidote for overcoming the blues.

"Science shows that, while it’s no fix-all, nurturing gratitude can help shift our attention to what’s positive," she wrote.

People who practiced gratitude regularly often had stronger immune systems, were less bothered by aches and pains and enjoyed better sleep. They reported feeling more joy and pleasure, experiencing more optimism and being happier. They were also were more helpful, generous and compassionate, and reported feeling less lonely and isolated, the article explained, citing a study conducted by the University of California.

"Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present; it diverts our attention from toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment and debilitating regret; and science shows that grateful people have a greater sense of self-worth," Lucy wrote.

She offered five suggestions for nurturing gratitude, including:

1. Keep a gratitude diary.

This is as simple as jotting something down in your daily planner or a specific journal. I have both, and will often jot down something I'm grateful for that day in the same journal I use to record my thoughts on that day's Bible study. But, I could very easily set aside part of my Daytime two-page-per-day planner to record things I'm grateful about.

Lucy said the entries should vary between the obvious biggies, like a promotion at work, and seemingly small things, such as having clean water and the way autumn leaves appear outside your window.

Not only does it work to reduce stress and promote a sense of calmness, it's also a great way to remind yourself of all the things you have to be grateful. When nothing seems to be going right, I know it's very easy to succumb to negative feelings. Reviewing a gratitude journal helps to realign your mind to the reality of how much you already have in your life.

2. Take a gratitude walk.

Lucy urged people to walk for 20 minutes just to think about what they are grateful for that day. The key is to be intentionally mindful of things as you walk around the neighborhood. Perhaps you're grateful for having a car, blooming flowers, nice weather, the laughter of children, etc.

To make it even more interesting, Lucy suggested walking with at least one other person and taking turns expressing gratitude.

3. Give thanks online.

I've seen several iterations of this. Some people commit to posting one thing every day for a week or even 30-days for which they are grateful. Not only does that help you express gratitude and give you a good start to developing a positive habit, but it may inspire others to do the same thing.

Some writers and authors have developed programs that send messages to people or flag them on social media to encourage them to share what they like about a particular topic or a favorite memory. While it's not entirely about gratitude, the point is to counteract the steam of negativity people encounter daily. It's amazing how brightly a flicker of light shines in a dark environment.

4. Practice everyday gratitude.

This is something we can all do for which the recipients will be extremely grateful themselves. It involves simply thanking people who provide you some type of service throughout the day. Imagine all the people we encounter every day, such as store clerks, bus drivers, child care workers, receptionists, ushers, etc. Every one of them could use an extra dose of kindness.

As a child, our family would occasionally pause at mealtime to express gratitude for something good that happened that day. Another family I know practiced what they called "up-downs," where they went around the table to say one thing that inspired them that day and another that had let them down. Simply knowing you'll be called upon to recite something you're grateful for having received is enough to keep you looking for a reason to share.

5. Focus on the positive.

"Reminding ourselves that positive developments are constantly happening as well as negative ones, and that there are millions of people working in myriad ways to help and support others, we see that we have the power to change things for the better rather than succumbing to what experts call 'learned helplessness,'" Lucy wrote.

It's way too easy to give in to negative emotions, thoughts and feelings. Being positive takes energy, especially when you're just starting out to change your mindset.

Yet, doing something every day to practice or express gratitude will go a long way to helping flush negative thinking out of your mind to make room for happier, more joyful and productive thoughts.

Lucy's full story can be found at www.positive.news.

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