Enhancing gratitude with technology

Thanksgiving is (or should be) about more than Turkey and hopefully not too awkward family dinners. The focus should be more on…giving thanks! Research shows that cultivating gratitude can have major positive effects on your mental health.

According to Harvard Medical School, there is plentiful research that suggests a correlation, if not an outright connection, between gratitude and how we view our lives and relationships. A concrete action, like writing a letter of gratitude to someone in our lives thanking them for all they’ve done for us, can have a positive effect on our outlook and attitude that lasts for months.

Here are four specific practices that can help us cultivate gratitude, all made possible or enhanced by the power of digital technology.

1. Journalling: It is hard to be grateful unless you spend time recording and reflecting on what happens in your life. Journalling with an emphasis on gratitude is a great way of counting your blessings and keeping on top of the most important moments in life. The journalling progress is made so much smoother by an app like Day One.

2. Meditating: Mindfulness meditation is all about focusing on the present moment. It is thus a great time to consider all the things we have to be thankful for right now, even in times of stress and adversity. If you’re new to the practice of meditation, a great place to start is with the excellent app, Headspace, which provides both beginning and advanced meditators a ton of resources.

3. Cutting out distractions: One essential aspect of gratitude is that it can ground you in the real world. No one is really grateful for a random notification or social media post. In fact, those have a tendency to obscure what really matters more than anything else. While there are a lot of options for cutting out the digital background noise, SelfControl is one of the most effective. It allows users to blacklist distracting websites for a given amount of time, and is designed in such a way that the only work around once you’ve started the timer is to do a factory reset on your computer.

4. Giving back: Gratitude ultimately should spur us to action. We have been given so much and, therefore, have so much to give. A simple way of giving back to charity is with an app like Coin Up. This app allows you to select a charity or non-profit of choice, and then the app will round up any payments you make with a linked card to the nearest dollar and give the “spare change” to that charity.

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