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Why Gratitude Is Good For You, Especially When You Practice It Every Day Like Shay Mitchell

Rewind your mind back a few hours to when you woke up this morning. Maybe your alarm sounded from your bedside table; you groggily rolled over to hit the “stop” button, maybe snooze, and then what? What was your first order of business to kickstart the day? Was it to give thanks to the universe for everything you have, for the opportunities that lie ahead, or was it to scroll through Instagram? Browsing social media first thing in the morning doesn’t really serve you or your well-being, but something like practicing gratitude is good for you, and it’s actually a skill that actress and influencer Shay Mitchell believes we could all benefit from.

In a recent interview with Huffington Post, the 31-year-old painted a picture of what an ideal morning looks like for her, including the little steps she takes to ensure her day begins with only good vibes. Aside from her breakfast staples (tofu burritos) and her caffeine fix of choice (she loves coffee and tea equally), Mitchell revealed the best way to start her day is by giving thanks as soon as she wakes up. According to the new face of Allergan’s Know Your Birth Control campaign, being grateful and saying “thank you” to the universe before she even gets out of bed “makes [the day] go a lot better.”

Personally, I think Mitchell might be onto something here. I know myself, and if I’m not kissing my husband good morning, the second my eyes pop open, I’m scrolling through social media to review anything I might have missed in the last eight hours or so. The truth is, concerning yourself with what others are doing before you even check in with yourself, is a mistake. Rather than “liking” snapshots of other people’s lives, I, like Shay, truly believe we could all benefit more from taking the time to acknowledge and be thankful for the little blessings we’re given every single day.

Before you can begin to practice showing gratitude, it's important to understand what it truly means to be grateful, and all the benefits that come along with it.

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Gratitude is something you practice, but it’s also something you feel. According to Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, gratitude is something that is both internally felt and externally executed. Think of it as a kind of cause and effect: When you actively practice gratitude, you're giving thanks to the universe, your body, your mind, and the people around you who bring value to your life. By doing this, Forshee tells Elite Daily, you're “generating an internal sense of positive well-being.” In other words, recognizing all that you have, and focusing on life's blessings, will keep the good vibes flowing, and suppress negative emotions like envy and greed, which can often easily develop after being on social media all day long.

Not only will practicing gratitude help you become more appreciative of the things you might otherwise take for granted — like your health, running water, food on the table, etc. — but teaching yourself to think more positively can also change the way you respond to things emotionally. In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of the Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, says happiness is a state of mind controlled by a neuro-chemical process (aka brain work) that determines how you approach life in general. Gratitude, she says, can play a huge role in this, because gratitude has the ability to both consciously and positively shift your way of thinking, which can then lead to more positive outcomes. So you see, gratitude is emotional, but it's largely chemical, too.

“One of the best ways to enhance [your happiness] is by practicing gratitude,” Silva tells Elite Daily. “By expressing gratitude and making it a daily practice to use positive thinking, it rewrites our chemistry and our ability to create happiness as an approach to how we deal with life.”

Shay Mitchell shows gratitude by literally saying "thank you" out loud every morning, but there are so many ways to put gratitude into practice in a way that feels right for you.

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There’s no right or wrong way to express gratitude — except maybe, you know, not expressing it at all. The former Pretty Little Liar’s strategy is, in my opinion, perfect for beginners who might feel awkward meditating on the subject, or reaching out to someone directly to say "thank you" for the role they play in your life. However, if saying "thank you" to no one in particular actually feels a little strange to you, or you’d like to do something more to show the world, and yourself, that you’re grateful for the life you’ve been given, there are a ton of ways you can go about doing so.

For example, Forshee tells Elite Daily that, instead of saying "thank you" when you wake up in the morning, you could, perhaps, focus your gratitude on someone else, like a loved one or a friend. “Start [your] day off by sending out positivity to others,” she tells Elite Daily — but don’t forget to save a little bit of that positivity for yourself, too. By spreading the love and thanks, Forshee adds, you’ll feel a “decrease any feelings of dysphoria and increase connectedness in relationships and self-worth.”

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Forshee also stresses the great impact that little acts of kindness can have on the ones you care about. “Very small things,” she explains, “such as sending a spontaneous text message letting them know to have a wonderful day, or how important they are to you, or placing a handwritten note in a hidden spot that they may find one day letting them know you’re thinking about them,” are simple, yet significant ways of showing others you're grateful for them.

In terms of showing yourself gratitude, Emily Larson, coordinator for the World Positive Education Accelerator and executive director of the International Positive Education Association, tells Elite Daily that keeping a gratitude journal is another excellent option. The act of jotting down people, places, or things that you're grateful for and feel lucky to have in your life, Larson says, is a type of positive psychology that "takes the approach of focusing on what's going right, or building up well-being." This could be put into practice before bed, when you wake up, even during your lunch break at work.

Remember, practicing gratitude isn't necessarily something that needs to be scheduled; you can easily start in the here and now. So, what are you thankful for?