As Thanksgiving approaches, we begin hearing more and more about the importance of gratitude and counting our blessings. To be honest, there are times that we can be more wrapped up in what’s going wrong in our lives or what we are missing, so feeling grateful doesn’t come easily. But gratitude is so beneficial in every area of life – health, well-being, relationships and success – that it is worthwhile to learn how to develop this important quality. The good news is, there are practical ways you can do it!
Here are 10 ideas you can use right now:
The Gratitude Journal. This is simply a notebook or diary to list the things in your life you are grateful for. Start with a basic list, then write one new entry a day identifying what you are grateful for that day and why. Review your list each day while being mindful of your deep sense of gratefulness.
Giving Grace. Giving Grace involves thinking in your mind or verbally expressing thanks to God for any experience you appreciate and never want to take for granted. G.K. Chesterton shares great perspective on this: You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
Daily Prayers of Gratitude are another wonderful way to express thanks for the miracles of life. Starting or ending your day with a prayer of gratitude for not only your blessings, but even your trials is a great way to acknowledge that there is purpose in all things. Prayer is also an important reminder that you are not alone, and that God cares for you.
Expressing Gratitude to Others is another way to take the focus off yourself and to encourage the people in your life. Never pass up an opportunity to say “thank you” or to verbally express appreciation for the value someone brings into your life. It can be a great source of joy for both of you.
Contrasting is another excellent way to help you maintain a positive and healthy perspective on life. Contrasting involves reflecting on an earlier time in your life and comparing what you have today to what you didn’t have at that time. You may think about your children, spouse, home, greater wisdom, better judgment, friends, and so on.
A Gratitude Box. For a fun and creative way to count your blessings, decorate a shoebox so it symbolizes what the virtue of gratitude means to you. Then use a small strip of paper to write one thing in your life you are grateful for and repeat until the box is full. Each morning, randomly select a piece of paper from the box. The entry you draw becomes the blessing you will focus on throughout the day.
A Gratitude Reminder helps me think of what I’m most thankful for. I keep two small marbles in my car; one represents my family and the other is a “general” gratitude marble. Every day when I see them I thank God for my family as well as other things on my mind that day. Some people like carrying a special coin or pebble in their pocket or purse to serve as their gratitude reminder.
Gratitude Messages are a great way to communicate appreciation to the people you care about. You can use notes, cards, letters, emails, social media posts, texts and voicemail messages expressing thanks and gratitude. You can also make it a practice to give a gratitude message to restaurant servers on your receipt as well as store clerks, customers, vendors, or anyone you appreciate.
The Gratitude Walk. This is exactly what it sounds like – an opportunity to think about things you are grateful for as you walk in your neighborhood, on a nature trail, at the mall, or wherever you enjoy stretching your legs. Walking creates a great opportunity to think, to be mindful of your surroundings and to feel grateful for what you see, hear, smell, or otherwise appreciate. You can also use this time to reflect on things and people you have written about in your gratitude journal – the choice is yours.
Gratitude Cue. I have developed a habit in my own life of creating a cue that reminds me to be grateful. My cue is the impulse to be judgmental, negative, fearful, worried, or pessimistic. The moment my mind wanders to any of these thought patterns I intentionally replace them with meaningful gratitude. I usually use my immediate environment and situation to help me identify what I’m grateful for. For example, if I’m at work I may express gratitude for my patients and other people I see and work with during the day. At home, it may be my wife and children, my home, and even our Wi-Fi service. With this technique I soon forget the negative junk I was tempted to focus on earlier.
Choosing what you allow your mind to focus on is one of the most important choices you make every day. Thinking about what you are grateful for will help to reap the benefits of a healthier, more satisfying life. Ralph Waldo Emerson offers some good advice: Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
What are you grateful for today? How have you learned to push back feelings of ingratitude or self-pity in order to experience gratitude and joy? Let us hear from you!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Todd is a licensed psychologist, executive coach, published author, and national conference and seminar speaker. He has been a featured expert on national and local radio talk shows and television news programs.