By Molly Shea
By this point in your self-care journey, you’re likely familiar with the idea of practicing gratitude and its many upsides.
Regularly expressing thanks for the people, things, and events in your life has been linked to better sleep, smarter financial decisions, and a host of other benefits.
But how often do you turn that gratitude inward rather than outward, thanking yourself for what you’ve done or the way you’ve handled a tricky situation?
While it’s easy to thank others for their generosity, practicing self-gratitude often slips under the radar—but it shouldn’t.
“There are many benefits to practicing self-gratitude,” Toronto-based mental health professional Krystal Kavita Jagoo, M.S.W., tells Shine. “Research shows that doing so shapes a positive relationship with one’s sense of self, which promotes stable mental health, and I have seen that in my work with clients of all ages over the last decade.”
Plus, the benefits of the self-focused practice extend beyond the self. By developing a better sense of self-gratitude, she says, her clients are more compassionate and accepting of themselves, which then translates to optimism and empathy in their relationships with others. “(It) bodes well for maintaining strong connections,” she says.
There are a whole host of ways to practice self-gratitude, all centered around acknowledging your actions and emotions in some form. In Jagoo’s practice, she’s encouraged patients to write down their “wins” on a piece of paper and deposit them into a goblet on her desk, so they could see how their various successes added up over time. When things weren’t going so well, the slips of paper serve as physical reminders of their toughness and emotional accomplishments.
“As with any practice, I would encourage individuals to be gentle with themselves if it is difficult to get started or keep going with incorporating self-gratitude into their life, as patterns can take a while to develop,” she says, “but consistent effort over time is how we can work towards progress.”
Want to develop a self-gratitude practice of your own? Consider starting with one Shine staffer’s three-step practice of picking one gratitude from her past, present, and future self.
That could mean thanking your past self for having the courage to move to a new city, your current self for putting in the work to form lasting friendships, and your future self for continuing to nurture those relationships.
Intrigued? Here’s how to get started.
Thank Your Past Self
Begin by reflecting on what you’ve done or experienced in the past, from childhood through recent memory. Chances are, you’ve survived some sticky situations.
Maybe you hauled yourself out of a toxic relationship.
Perhaps you made it through school against pretty rough odds.
You might’ve simply had the humility to acknowledge a mistake and move forward.
It could even be having the foresight to cultivate a certain friendship, or fight for something you knew you wanted.
Whatever you’re proud of, let yourself feel it. You’ve earned that sense of accomplishment, no matter how small the event that prompted it.
Thank Your Present Self
Next, think about what you’re doing right now to benefit you.
At the very least, you’re taking a few minutes for this self-gratitude practice, but there’s likely more you can name here.
Maybe you recently set aside an hour for a much-needed yoga class, or treated yourself like a friend after a major disappointment.
Reflect upon or jot down whatever comes to mind, taking a moment to really acknowledge each entry. You’re making these things happen—go, you!
Thank Your Future Self
Hands up if thinking about the future ever sends a shiver down your spine.
I know I’ve certainly had my share of concerns about the future, often centered around doing the wrong thing or choosing the wrong path.
What if, instead of worrying about future mistakes, you thank yourself for them? What if you thank yourself for having the grace to reroute when you’ve chosen the wrong path or for holding onto the lessons you’re learning at the moment?
Showing gratitude to future you can be a good reminder that you can and will show up for yourself. It’ll help you shed some of those “what comes next?” worries.
Once you’ve got a past, present, and future item, take one last moment to soak up the gratitude.
You might thank yourself aloud if you’re in a place to do so, wrapping your arms around yourself for a little self-hug.
You might keep a physical list of the three examples with you throughout the day, to serve as a reminder of what you’ve done and will do.
You could even get a friend involved, carving out time for a self-gratitude practice together, then sharing what you’ve come up with.
However you practice, remember: It’s a journey.