How to Truly Embody Gratitude

Studies show the benefits of practising gratitude to be far-reaching, with positive effects on the body and mind as well as on individuals and groups alike. When we practise gratitude, we enjoy increased happiness, satisfaction and resilience, not to mention better sleep, immune system responses and even relationships. Therefore, consciously acknowledging what we are grateful for can lead to all-around improvements in our physical, mental and social wellbeing.

But what exactly does it mean to practise gratitude?

Beyond saying “thank you”, some common gratitude practices include journalling about and meditating on what makes us grateful. I wanted to go beyond the surface, however, and explore how I might truly embody gratitude, developing it beyond an occasional practice and into a conscious way of life. Here’s what I came up with.

Slow down (and tune in).

For me, routine leads to autopilot leads to rushing. When I pull the brakes on rushing, I can more easily be in gratitude and savour each moment. Not only is embodying gratitude a change in pace, it’s a change in presence. With regular check-ins, I can assess how I’m feeling and make necessary adjustments (i.e. avoiding autopilot by not assuming that what once worked will always work). Said another way, embodying gratitude means staying fully engrossed in the present moment.

Speak through actions.

Another way to embody gratitude is to reinvigorate how I’m saying “thank you”. While those two little words are a good way to express gratitude, doing so doesn’t have to stop with them alone. Expressing gratitude with actions can go a long way in spreading the feeling. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture and it doesn’t even have to be shared with another person. Think “thank yous” in the form of a hug, smile or deep breath.

Celebrate with loved ones.

That aforementioned autopilot often gets me stuck in the flight deck (that is, my head). There, I often can’t quite see how far I’ve come or the awesome landmarks along the way. When I drop into the present and into gratitude, I can revel in all that I have to celebrate. Taking it a step further, I can invite my friends and family to the party, sharing the good things from my day and encouraging them to do the same.

Extend a hand.

There are many in my life for whom I’m deeply grateful. Sometimes thoughts and memories of them spring to mind and bring a smile to my face. To really savour that joyful gratitude and let it ripple out beyond me, I reach out to the loved one to let them know they’re in my thoughts and heart. Importantly, I’ll harbour no expectation of a reply, for gratitude is unconditional, thus so should be the intention behind my gesture. The only hope I have is to feel and spread the positivity. If I surprise them with the impulse to smile in the same way they unwittingly did for me, that’s a bonus.

Be honest.

Living in complete and total honesty helps me to stay on my authentic path, where I can see with greater clarity all that I have to be grateful for. It means meeting myself exactly where I am, which works to cultivate trust in myself and my inner wisdom, especially in matters of holding on and letting go. When I’m out of sync with truthfulness, living in delusion and denial, I may hold on to something that no longer serves me, thus opting for nostalgia rather than gratitude for what is. Gratitude does not attempt to recapture or hold on. It is rooted in detachment, just as honesty is.

Live in abundance.

Abundance is pervasive. Despite this, many can fall into a mindset of lack. Loss can leave me feeling particularly vulnerable to choosing to live in lack. Doing so is shutting my eyes to the fact that abundance is ever washing over me, even in those times of difficulty. To embody gratitude, I can trust in the Universe to give me infinite reasons to be grateful, even and especially in the face of adversity, knowing that one experience’s end is the ushering in of a new one.

Embrace joy.

As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes get stuck in my head. Internally, this looks like acknowledging that I found something funny in a sort of academic way rather than just letting the humour tickle a laugh out of me. Embodying gratitude means seeking out joy and really feeling it. Along with laughing, dance and play are other ways to experience joy.

Make something.

Along the lines of play, my gratitude really brims when I let myself be carried away by my creativity. These are the times when the bounds of time fall away, when all parts of me feel as one, when I feel deep in connection with myself and something greater. When I create, I’m also fueled by the energy of having created, and the active ingredient in that power is gratitude.

How do you embody gratitude? Comment down below to let me know, and share the article with a friend for whom you’re grateful.