While this time of the year we are more prone to celebrating life, this is something we really ought to be doing the whole year. The key idea is to celebrate and be grateful for the good that is already in our life. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

There are things that we all take for granted — almost like given truths in our lives. Whether it’s the roof over our heads, the food on our plates or the clothes on our backs, it’s there and we always expect those things to be there. But for many people in the world, it’s not there. We forget about those things from time to time. Until of course these things come into jeopardy. Gratitude can change your life because it makes you appreciate what you have rather than focus on what you don’t have. Here are 7 gratitude exercises that will change your life:

1. Wake up with gratitude

As soon as you wake up create a mental list of 10 things you are grateful for (and you want to celebrate today). Starting with gratitude as you wake up sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. You can start by simply saying: “Thank you for this new day,” and go from there.

2. Commit to one complaint-free day a week

A recent research in Psychology indicates that consistent complaining leads to decreased happiness. So an important message we can take from this research is to do our best to stay positive and avoid complaining. Of course totally avoiding complaint is not an easy task, but you can get started with just one complaint-free day a week. This will help you to avoid thinking of yourself as a victim and start taking more response-ability for your life.

3. Take a gratitude walk

Regular walking in itself has many benefits, it may help us maintain a healthy weight, it prevents or manages various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, it strengthens our bones and muscles, it improves our mood. When we add a gratitude practice, our walking turns into an amazing opportunity to see and honour the beauty that is around us, whether it is from nature, architecture, people or the animal kingdom. As you walk, observe and acknowledge the simple wonders around you that you often take for granted. For instance, the warm sun on your body, the feel of the breeze, beautiful flowers, and so on.

4. Keep a daily gratitude journal

Several studies show that a five-minute daily gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent and the same studies found that’s the same impact as doubling your income!

But, as Seth Morris from Zyto teaches: "While writing about gratitude in general can be beneficial, research also shows that the more specific you are about what you are grateful for, the more beneficial your gratitude journaling will be.

A study from the University of Southern California found that test subjects who wrote 5 sentences about one thing they were grateful for were happier and more energetic compared to test subjects who were asked to write about just one sentence about 5 things they were grateful for over the course of 10 weeks.

So when you’re journaling, make sure to be specific! Instead of saying you’re grateful for your spouse, for example, go into detail about why you are grateful for them, citing specific personality traits, experiences, and things they have done for you in the past."

5. The What-Went-Well Exercise

Similarly to the Daily Gratitude Journal, this exercise prompts us to focus on the positive of our day. At the end of your day, write down three things that went well and explain why. As Nils Salzgeber from NJLifeHacks explains: "The items can vary from the mundane (your co-worker made coffee for you; your husband picked up a treat for you on the way home from work) to the extraordinary (you earned a promotion; your sister gave birth to a healthy baby).

The key to making this practice as beneficial as possible is to take your time with it. Really reflect on those good things and feel the gratitude for them.

This exercise may feel awkward at first or you may have trouble focusing on the positive feelings of an event. That’s normal. Just keep at it. It will get easier. It’s best to practice this every day for at least a week. After that, decide whether you want to keep it in your daily routine, or just use it occasionally to refocus on the good things in your life."

6. Write a gratitude letter

Call to mind someone who did something for you for which you are extremely grateful but to whom you never expressed your deep gratitude. This could be a relative, friend, teacher, or colleague. Now, write a letter to one of these people.

Describe in specific terms what this person did, why you are grateful to this person, and how this person’s behaviour affected your life. Try to be as concrete as possible. Don’t worry about perfect grammar or spelling. It is what comes from your heart that counts.

If you can and if the person is still alive, call the person and tell them you’d like to visit and have something special to share, but don’t reveal the exact purpose of the meeting. When you meet, let the person know that you are grateful to them and would like to read a letter expressing your gratitude; ask that he or she refrain from interrupting until you’re done. Remember to give the letter to the person when you leave. If you can't visit in person, you may choose to arrange a phone or video chat. If the person has passed away, you can bring the letter to the cemetery or leave it in nature. It is a super powerful process that can heal old stored emotions and release a lot of energy.

7. Use gratitude affirmations

Using specific gratitude affirmations is a powerful way to stir your subconscious mind towards a positive mindset so you can experience the benefits of gratitude consistently. Below you find a list of 7 affirmations on gratitude. Just focus on the ones that resonate more with you. You can use them to create your morning gratitude routine, during your gratitude walk and or as a part of your gratitude meditation.

  • I am so grateful for discovering my power to create the life I want
  • I give thanks that my requests have already been fulfilled
  • My life is filled with an abundance and bliss
  • Everyday I see improvements in my life
  • I am thankful for learning and growing
  • The universe supports me and all my desires
  • I experience gratitude for everything I have in my life

Gratitude can change our life because it is the most powerful source of inspiration that we can tap into when we simply just stop and pay attention to the simplistic beauty and miracle of life.

2019 is coming to a close, and a new chapter is opening for you in 2020. Happy Holidays!