Cultivate a Grateful Heart: How to Practice Gratitude and Appreciation

by Juergen Klein

As we enter the holiday season, we enter the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, cooking, hosting, and celebrating. While this is often a time of frenzy and excitement, it is also important to cultivate a grateful heart and reflect on the true spirit of the festive season. Discover the secrets to practicing gratitude and why it is so fulfilling to incorporate it into your celebrations.  

Why Practice Gratitude?  

The best gift you can give yourself and others this holiday season is the gift of presence. To be present and mindful throughout festivities, one must be conscious about appreciating what they have and who they are surrounded by. Cherishing moments and practicing the art of gratitude allows you to feel grounded, loved, and appreciated by others.  

Scientific studies show that those who practice the art of gratitude and appreciation lead happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives. Not only can this practice lead to mental health benefits, but it has been astonishingly proven also to provide physical benefits. Feeling thankful for life’s gifts can improve sleep, decrease depression and anxiety, boost immunity, and even help ease the risk of disease and chronic pain.  

How to Practice Gratitude:  

There are two steps that are necessary when working towards cultivating a sense of gratitude and appreciation: recognition of the goodness around us and then recognition of how that goodness came to be. Even when we feel overwhelmed, sad, and stressed, acknowledging the good in our lives helps us gain much-needed perspective. Then we can actively work on the second stage of gratitude by recognizing our connection with others and how we are able to be surrounded by all this goodness.  

Here are some practical ways that you can practice gratitude throughout the holiday season:  


  1. Start a Gratitude Journal 

    One of the easiest ways to start your gratitude journey is to start a daily journal. This helps us put into words exactly what we have to appreciate and give thanks for. Just a few minutes of your time each day thinking and writing these things you appreciate helps build a greater sense of appreciation. Journaling makes you notice the bounty that is around you and after some time you can look back on your journal and reflect.  
  2. Focus on Other’s Intentions  
    While it is easier to focus on someone’s actions, it is also beneficial to focus on the intentions of others. When someone gives you a gift or offers a kind gesture, think about what the intentions behind that action were. If we can recognize that they were intending to make us feel happy, loved, and cared for, we can appreciate their actions even more.  
  3. Send Thank You Notes  

    The magic that a small thank you note holds is boundless. While they may be traditional in a sense, taking the time to write a note of appreciation creates a powerful connection between you and the person you are expressing gratitude towards. Whether it is a partner, a friend, or a family member, this creates a constant feedback loop of expression.  
  4. Mindful Gift-Giving
    Meaningful and thoughtful gifts that go beyond materialism truly embody the spirit of gratitude. The holidays are a wonderful time to show appreciation for someone by gifting them a heartfelt present that means more. Some examples include gifting an activity they enjoy and that you can spend quality time together doing or a gift that is specially curated with love.  
  5. Giving Back with Gratitude 

    Giving back is the ultimate expression of gratitude, and it is one of the most fulfilling ways to spread the spirit of the season. Sharing your abundance with those in need can take on many forms, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, donating to food pantries, or “adopting” a family to help provide a cherished holiday.  

    While donating money and items is always helpful, we encourage you to get involved and donate your time as well. This will make you feel more connected to the people you are sharing with and provide an even deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment.

  6. Be Thankful for Small Actions
    A meaningful way to cultivate gratitude in your daily life is to be appreciative of the small things. In countless scientific studies, it has been shown that people who make an effort to appreciate the minute details of life in particular are more likely to feel a profound sense of meaning and happiness. 

    During this time of year, take the time to appreciate a warm drink, the fresh fall air, and the small actions of others. After awhile, the appreciation of these tiny moments add up and create an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  

  7. Thank Yourself 
    One of the most difficult ways to practice thankfulness is with yourself. Thank yourself for accomplishing a task you have been putting off. Thank yourself for taking a night off and putting your own needs first. Thank yourself for nourishing your body with food that keeps you healthy and happy. Taking just a moment to share gratitude with yourself is an important practice to cultivate.

  8. Create Family Traditions Centered Around Appreciation

    Incorporating traditions centered on gratefulness helps you and your loved ones foster the spirit of appreciation. Some ways to keep up the culture of thankfulness throughout the holiday season include sharing three things that each family member is grateful for before every meal. Loved ones can also practice sharing something about each other that they are especially grateful for every day 

    No matter where your holiday season takes you this year, cultivating a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation will help make it especially meaningful and memorable. By acknowledging the goodness, we are surrounded by and how it came to be, we feel joyful, loved, and cared for. Spread happiness this holiday season with a deeply grateful heart and mind.  

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