How often do you say, “This is the worst day ever,” or maybe even, “I hate my life”? Probably every now and then. A lot of us are easily disheartened when things don’t quite go our way, and we quickly engage in these irrational thoughts. Sure, doing so is only human… but it’s also only harmful. So, how can we knock these harmful thoughts down and adopt more positive thinking patterns? One word: gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is simply about recognizing all you have to be thankful for. Yeah, your car might’ve broken down, but at least you have a car! And sure, spilling hot coffee all over your pants sucked, but at least you didn’t burn your skin. Get the gist? There’s a lot of value in looking on the bright side of things. And there’s always a bright side because we all have something to be grateful for.

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

So, why should you incorporate this self-care strategy into your daily routine? Other than the fact that it helps to keep you in a positive state of mind, practicing gratitude is scientifically proven to…

  • Improve the quality of your relationships
  • Enrich physical health
  • Improve your psychological health
  • Enhance empathy
  • Reduce aggression
  • Help you sleep better
  • Raise your self-esteem
  • Improve overall wellbeing

5 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude

Now to the part where we find the best approach to this self-care technique for you: “One thing that is very important to understand when discussing self-care is that it can look different for everyone, so it’s about taking the core concepts and turning it into a practice that works for you,” explains Life Coach Desiree Wiercyski. “For example, all of the research around gratitude and having a regular practice around being thankful is highly beneficial, but what that looks like can be different. I have one client who wakes up and simply starts speaking out loud, listing the things she’s thankful for from the time she wakes up to when she starts to eat breakfast. I have another client who writes out a list of things she’s thankful for every morning and when she goes to bed. Both are self-care habits around gratitude, just different forms.” So, what’s the best approach for you? Give these a try, and see what sticks:

1) Keep a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a journal to keep record of all your gratitudes. You can write in it each morning, each night, or simply whenever you feel inspired to. I started keeping a gratitude journal at the beginning of this year—my resolution was to write in it ideally every night, but at least a few times throughout the week. Almost immediately, I started to feel relieved of stress and overall a much happier person.

2) Make a list. If you don’t want to commit to a whole journal of gratitudes, you don’t have to. Consider keeping a list instead. You can tape a piece of paper to the fridge, keep one on your desk, or even handy in your purse. And then any time you think of something you’re thankful for, add it to this list!

3) Create a collage. Words not your thing? In that case, try making a gratitude collage instead. Round up pictures of your favorite things—maybe they’re pictures you’ve taken or ones you’ve found in a magazine/online—and then stick ‘em on a piece of paper. Now, there’s one place where all the things you love live. And anytime you need a reminder of how fortunate you are, you can simply look here.

4) Cherish your relationships. Another simple way to practice gratitude is to cherish your relationships. Show your loved ones just how much you care about them—you can outright tell them they mean the world to you, sure, but actions speak louder than words. Be there for your friends and family in times of need, do little things to remind them that they matter, and be the best person you can be for them.

5) Give back. You can also practice and show your gratitude by giving back to your community. Make it your goal to perform at least one act of kindness every single day. This can be as simple as putting a couple quarters in an expired meter, inviting a new coworker out to lunch, or volunteering a little bit of your time at the local animal shelter.