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Tips for Making Gratitude a Habit

Building a gratitude habit will look different for everyone, but these tips can help you make a habit that sticks.

Building a gratitude habit will look different for everyone, but these tips can help you make a habit that sticks.

It helps to use a cue and a reward

The cue

A cue can help you get started on a habit. The cue can be anything you want:

  • A physical thing – like a sticky note on your desk or a message you write on your mirror
  • A sound – like an aeroplane flying over, a clock chime, or an alarm on your phone. It may sound weird, but using something annoying as a cue to practise gratitude may help you build even more positivity in your life. The sound of your kids fighting or dog barking can serve as a reminder of who you’re grateful for.
  • A time of day – like right before you go to bed or during your commute
  • A thought pattern – For some people, happiness is a cue to remembering even more things they’re grateful for. For others, negative feelings may be a cue, and gratitude is a way to pull themselves out of a negative spiral.

Think about times of the day that work for you to practice gratitude. It’s okay it varies day-to-day, but for some people, it’s easier once they have a schedule. Over time you might reduce your practice to something you do weekly, which can have a meaningful impact, but it helps to make a habit first.

The reward

Seeing a reward for your practice will help you make a habit. You may look forward to the feelings you have when you do this gratitude practice and that, in itself, is a reward.

Or, you could choose to reward yourself by doing something you enjoy every time you complete your gratitude practice.

Avoiding Pitfalls

Feel like giving up?

Over time, you may find that some of your cues or rewards stop working. Rather than giving up, ask yourself whether the cues or the rewards need adjusting and try something new.

Are you fiercely independent? A perfectionist? It might take time to feel the benefit.

Some research shows that gratitude practices can feel less positive for some people, like people who are perfectionists or prefer doing a lot on their own. If this sounds like you, gratitude might make you feel some anxiety, guilt, or debt to others.

Working through these feelings is normal. Over time, gratitude may help see accepting help as a natural, good thing.

Are there a lot of half-finished projects in your life? Are new habits hard to stick to? Or does life just feel overwhelming? Remember why you care and that you really can.

Research tells us that some people may have a harder time adopting gratitude practices than others. Many of us may fall into this category, especially if we’re hard on ourselves, see new habits as challenging or are struggling with life at the moment.

If this sounds like you: you can still be successful but may need to remember why you are trying and how you’ve succeeded before.

Think about why you want to make gratitude a regular practice in your life. What outcome are you hoping for? Remember that you’re capable. What other habits have you been able to start in your life and could you use that experience to help you form a gratitude habit?

If you’d like to learn more about practising gratitude, check out the full online course, from The University of Michigan, below.

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Practicing Gratitude Teach-Out

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