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Gratitude Practices

We're quickly approaching my favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving! Why is it my favorite holiday? Because I get to eat a lot of amazing food. I don't make myself feel guilty for enjoying large portions or drinking and you shouldn't either. I promise you that one day isn't going to derail your progress. Many people first think of food when it comes to this annual holiday, but there is much more to Thanksgiving than a feast. It’s about being thankful and appreciating everything good in your life.

The Power of Gratitude There are a lot of things that contribute to your mental health but in psychology research, gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps individuals cherish good experiences, handle adversity, and build strong relationships. Gratitude makes you:

  1. Less Materialistic - Turns what you have into enough, and more.

  2. More Optimistic - Makes your memories happier, creating a sense of fulfillment.

  3. Less Self-Centered - You focus on the acts of others/for others instead of your own.

We all have something to be grateful for. We all have people and things in our life that we are grateful for but when was the last time you expressed it? As we continue through the holiday season, practice it. Take mental notes of things that you're grateful for and express your gratitude to the ones who mean the most.

Gratitude Practices

Although it may feel forced at first, this mental state of gratitude grows stronger with use and practice. Five ways to practice gratitude are:

  1. Write a thank-you note. Not only will it nurture your relationship with another person but it will make you feel good doing it as well. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter/text a month, expressing your enjoyment and appreciation for that person's impact on your life. No time to write? Thank someone mentally. It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and to mentally thank the individual.

  2. Power questions. This is a fun exercise to do with your significant other or even just yourself. At the end of each day, you’ll ask your partner or yourself two questions. The first one is “what was the highlight of your day?” After sharing each other's positive moments with one another, the second question is “what are you looking forward to the most tomorrow?” These questions are intentionally framed to elicit a positive answer and make for some fun conversation at the dinner table or before going to bed.

  3. Keep a gratitude journal. Reflect on what went right or what you are grateful for. Pick three to five things, that you will identify daily or weekly. As you write, be specific about the sensations you felt from each positive interaction, what you did, or when something good happened to you. Over the course of time, you will notice a difference in how you look at life.

  4. Start a gratitude jar. The gratitude jar is a simple exercise to create a positive outlook. First, find a jar and decorate it. Next, write down what you are grateful for on little pieces of paper and fill the jar with them. Over time, you will find that you have a jar full of reasons to be thankful. It’s a great gratitude practice but it is a reminder to enjoy the life you are living. If you are ever feeling down, take a few notes out of the jar to remind yourself of who, and what is good in your life.

  5. Gratitude prompts. These are great for getting started, continuing your practice, or getting the creative juices flowing if you feel stalled. The prompts provide several ways to begin a gratitude statement, with the only task of filling in the blank. Some examples are: “​​I’m grateful for three things I hear…” “I’m grateful for three things I see…” “I’m grateful for these three blue things…” “I’m grateful for these three friends…” “I’m grateful for these three things in my home…” The possibilities are endless and cover a variety of sensations.

Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins, like the subway showing up on time, a stranger holding the door for you, or the sun shining on a perfect fall day. Each of these small moments creates a web of well-being that strengthens your ability to notice the good.

I'm thankful for you and your support and it means the world to me! Thank you to everyone who donated to The James Blake Foundation in support of my first NYC marathon and I'm happy to announce we hit the fundraiser goal and raised over $3,000 for cancer research!

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