How to Practice Gratitude Without Feeling Like an Instagram Cliché

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As we approach Thanksgiving (and the holiday season beyond), chances are the question of "what are you thankful for?" has either flitted across your mind or else your family's dinner table. But while this time of year might serve as our culturally enforced reminder, the truth is that practicing gratitude on a regular basis is a research-backed way to eliminate stress and introduce new meaning into our lives. And it doesn't have to feel as corny or contrived as a #blessed hashtag, either.

"It's not uncommon for people to balk at the idea of daily gratitude practice," says Heather Silvestri, PhD, a New York City–based psychologist. "Of course, forcing ourselves to recognize positives through the lens of some grand concept of gratefulness can feel inauthentic." But when done correctly—that is, truly recognizing those moments that inferred genuine feeling, no matter how small—science shows that practicing gratitude as a self-care ritual can significantly improve our happiness and overall wellbeing. 

Consider one study conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Davis, and University of Miami, in which participants were divided into three groups: The first group was instructed to write down things they were grateful for over the course of a week, the second wrote about things that had irritated them, and the last group wrote about events that had affected them but weren't necessarily good or bad. Over the course of 10 weeks, the gratitude group didn't just feel happier about their lives—they felt better physically to boot, and paid fewer visits to their doctors.