One of my all-time favorite definitions of gratitude is “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation” by Sansone & Sansone, 2010.
Gratefulness is more than just saying thank you quickly; it is the feeling of being honestly thankful for something. The more you think about things you are grateful for, the more you will start connecting those things to positive feelings. The more often you express or think of what you are grateful for, the more you will realize how these thoughts tend to always put a smile on your face. This smile is what proves you the difference between just saying it and really thinking about it and meaning it when you think or say that you are grateful.
Why it is important to feel gratitude in your life
“Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” - Arianna Huffington
It is said, that people who regularly reflect upon things they are grateful for, would experience more positive emotions, which leads them to smile more often, expressing more kindness, sleeping better, hence having a stronger immune system.
Once you start thinking of all the things you are grateful for on a regular basis, you will shift your whole thinking. Your thoughts become more positive. Your mindset starts becoming more appreciative and positive. Once you start focusing on good things, your subconscious mind will lead you to see more good things. I.e., once you start focusing on things you are grateful for, your subconscious mind will lead you to more things which you can be grateful for.
With every step you take to being more grateful on a regular basis, you take a step closer to mental and physical health. You will become more relaxed and happy on the way. Being more relaxed means less tensed muscles, which usually means less back pain, fewer headaches, etc.
A study by McCraty and colleagues (1998) showed that cultivating appreciation and other positive emotions resulted in a 23% reduction of the stress hormone cortisol after the intervention period.
Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.
The Journal of Research in Personality published a study which found that gratitude not only attracts positive people into your life, it also fosters the support you receive from others.
Another study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research has concluded that feeling grateful helps people sleep better and longer.
Gratitude can make you more patient. A study conducted at the Northeastern University has found that people who felt grateful for little, everyday things were more patient and better able to make sensible decisions compared to those who didn’t feel very gracious on a day-to-day basis.
Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present and see the beauty in the here and now. It makes you appreciate the details; it makes you appreciate the simple things.
How to practice more gratefulness in our daily lives.
It is not enough to simply say I am grateful or I am thankful. You need to really feel it when you say it. Smile to yourself when you think of something you are grateful for. Make yourself really feel good when saying or thinking that you are grateful for something or someone.
I believe the first step to more gratitude in life is choosing to be grateful the same way you can choose to be happy. Making a conscious decision. Deciding to make an effort. Deciding to really make a choice.
Once you have made the decision, try to start your days with feeling grateful straight away.
One way is to stay in bed for a few minutes and think of at least five things you are grateful for, another way, which I personally prefer is thinking of at least five things I am grateful for while being in the shower. It is up to you to which option suits you better. I just happen to have a very comfortable bed, and that bed combined with thoughts that make me feel really good and comfortable might just send me straight back to dreamland. Which is why it is a little safer for me to get up, turn on the music and the coffee and head to the shower to start thinking of the things I am grateful for. I cannot stress enough though, that it is very important to try to really picture what you are grateful for and embrace the feeling of gratitude. Just thinking it and dismissing it right away is not as effective as smiling by the thought of it and feeling the happiness this thought might carry for you.
In case you are new to the thought of practicing more gratitude, and you cannot think of anything to feel grateful for, start with simple things: Take a deep breath, smile and think to yourself how amazingly awesome it is that you woke up today and you get to experience yet another day. Every day is a new beginning. Think of giving every day the chance to become better than the last.
Or simply be happy that you are alive. Feel alive. Feel the shower water dripping on your skin. Be grateful for the fact that you can turn the shower temperature to any temperature you like. Smell the nice scent of your shower gel. Be thankful for the fact that you live in a country, in a place where you can choose your favorite scent of shower gel. Be happy you can afford to buy your favorite shower gel. You have a job. You have a roof over your head. You have a family that may not be perfect for everyone but is surely the perfect family for you. They love you with all their heart. They love you the way you are, with all your strength and weaknesses.
I am sure once you start with basic things to be grateful for, you will soon get the hang of it and think of a million things that have the power to make you smile easily.
Every once in a while, especially when you are just getting started with thought exercises to feel more grateful, you might experience moments, where all of a sudden, while doing this exercise, a negative thought comes up. Smile to yourself. It is ok; you are just human. The trick is to realize that this is a negative thought coming up, to stop your thought right then and there, to smile to yourself and replace it with a positive thought. The more often you do this, this the easier it will become, and after some time you will be able to apply this technique in any situation you like.
Another very helpful aid is to carry a constant reminder with you. You can find tons of great examples in our collection. But if you are aiming to invite more gratitude into your life, I would most probably recommend you our “I am grateful” bag, our “and what are you grateful for?” shirt, our “be grateful for every new day” shirt, our “Life is just better when you choose to be grateful” hoodie or our “Today is a good day cause I chose to be grateful” shirt. The important part, however, is that every time you consciously look at it, you try to think of at least one thing you are grateful for. Plus having the benefit, that when you subconsciously notice it your subconscious will “think” of something you can be grateful for as well.
We all face challenges in our lives. Even the most positive minded, most successful and happiest of us, do encounter challenges every now and then. The difference, however, is, how people deal with their challenges. The way they view and tackle their challenges varies. Some get scared and discouraged when being faced with a new challenge. Others get excited and look forward to every new challenge. Try to be one of the people who can’t wait to master a new challenge. Try to face your challenges by feeling grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, to widen your horizon and become a better version of yourself.
Quite a lot of people keep a small notebook with themselves. They have managed to make a positive habit out of writing down what they feel thankful for whenever it comes to their mind. This in a way, may also help you when needing something to bring you back on the path of feeling positive. Since they always keep the notebook with them, they can always open and read one of the things they felt grateful for earlier, when they are in a moment of not feeling as happy as they should feel. (no worries, if you prefer to keep a virtual notebook on your phone instead that is just as fine.)
Say thank you more often. It is great, to think and feel gratitude, but it is even better to also make a habit of expressing gratitude to others. This may be on a small scale such as telling people thank you for things in your daily life. Keep in mind that an actual “thank YOU” preferably said by looking at the person you are addressing in that statement, is a lot more effective than a halfhearted “thanks” thrown at someone only to show you have good manners. Give it a try, feel the difference, notice the difference when someone directs a “thanks” at you, without even looking at you and when someone actually says “thank you” and looks at you when doing so. Expressing gratitude will make you feel more grateful for having tons of opportunities to say thank you. You will start to realize and appreciate simple gestures of kindness a lot more when starting to thank those around you for those simple gestures. Is someone holding open the door for you? Look at that person, smile and say thank you. The lady at the bakery greeted you with a smile and completed your order in a pleasant and fast way? Smile back and thank her! Your husband cooked a wonderful dinner. Tell him thank you; it was very tasty! There are a lot of possibilities out there to say thank you more often. Embrace them! I am sure it will make you feel more grateful in your daily life.
Do you want to take expressing gratefulness to the next step? Tell those closest to you, how grateful you are to have them in your life. Send them a text message, write them a note, or tell them face to face. Leave your husband a small note in his notebook telling him how grateful you are to be with him, leave a note in your daughter’s lunchbox telling her that she is awesome and write a note to your parents telling them how thankful you are to have such wonderful parents. Make a positive habit out of it. Try to at least tell one person per week, how glad you are that they are part of your life.
Want to even go further?
Soul Pancake, a group that works to discover the “science of happiness,” ran an experiment where they encouraged people to write a letter to a person they were grateful for. By itself, this exercise increased their levels of happiness from 2 to 4%. However, when the same people made a phone call to the person they were thankful for, to express their gratitude directly, happiness levels jumped from 4% to 19%.
Not only does expressing your gratitude for someone make their day a little brighter, but it can do wonders for increasing your own levels of gratitude and happiness in the long run. Maybe you should make it a habit to send out at least one letter per month, what do you think!?
Another great way to practice and invite more gratitude into your life is by spending more quality time with friends and family, the more time you enjoy with them, the more grateful you will feel for having them in your life.
Live in the moment. I hinted at this advice already a little earlier by saying you should pay attention on how the shower water is dripping on your skin and be thankful for the fact that you can adjust the shower temperature to your liking. The more you live in the moment, the more you find happiness in the details, the simple things, the more grateful you will start to feel for those small things and the more you will realize that those small things are, what makes up a great day in the end.
The next tip was recommended to me by a friend, and I have to admit that I forgot about it until brainstorming for this blog-post again. But I know my friend said he does this regularly and it perfectly does the trick for him. So what he does is, he sets his alarm three times a day to take a break and be grateful. Whenever the alarm rings, he stops what he is doing, gets up, grabs a coffee and thinks of at least three things he is grateful for. He obviously knows his schedule, so he would not set the alarm to a time where he knows he might be in an important meeting or something like that and as I said this might be the perfect advice for some people. But as for me, I don’t like interrupting myself when I don’t have to. I like finishing whatever I do and then having a coffee. It lets me enjoy my coffee more since that way I am not worried about the fact that I still have to or want to finish my task and so on. But yea, that’s maybe why people tend to tell me I should take more breaks. My friend says the reason that this method works for him best, is exactly that, he forces himself to take a break and some time to recharge his energy at least three times a day, intensifying this energy booster even more by using the time to reflect on at least three things he is grateful for. I guess you have to try out different approaches to find the ones that suit you the best. Maybe I should even take my friends advice and give this one a try as well. Who knows, I might be pleasantly surprised. Well and if not, I can still go back to my own gratitude routines, knowing I at least gave this one a try as well. No harm in trying, right!?
The next advice I would like to give to you is one of my favorites. If you have a picture of someone or something, you are grateful for, set it as your mobile and desktop backgrounds. I tend to switch those pictures every now and then since I have so many pictures of wonderful memories I am extremely grateful for. Sometimes I even create a certain folder of pictures of my loved ones and the nice times we keep on spending and let it run as a slideshow screensaver. But just setting one picture as a background on your phone or laptop works just as fine. Nowadays most people use their mobiles and laptops frequently throughout their day. This way, consciously as well as subconsciously they keep on being reminded of something beautiful they feel grateful for. It is the same idea, as wearing something from our collection, those two ideas I believe, or actually, a lot of the ideas I am presenting here for you, work very well together. You see, you can never feel too grateful, the more, the merrier.
The following point we have also already hinted at, we said before that if you catch yourself having a negative thought while trying to think of things you are grateful for you should stop yourself right there, smile and yes, think of something you are grateful for. Obviously, this applies to all areas of your life. Whenever you catch yourself thinking about something you lack in life, stop yourself right there and think of all the wonderful things you already have in your life now.
No one is perfect; no one has had a flawless past. The secret is to acknowledge your past, to be grateful for what you have learned and become so far, to accept yourself the way you are with your strength as well as your weaknesses.
Keep in mind; this is your life, the whole point of wanting to be more grateful is inviting more happiness into your life. So my next recommendation is: It’s your life. Make the most out of it. Do what you want to do. Be whom you want to be. Basically just do whatever makes you happy (as long as that goes without harming anyone else). The happier you feel, the more things you will notice to be grateful for.
One great way to become happier and to do what you want to do is by giving yourself a small treat every day. The quintessence of this exercise is to, at the end of the day, look back and have at least one thing to account for that you really truly enjoyed. This can be something as small as having your favorite chocolate bar, reading a chapter of your favorite book or meeting your best friend for a coffee.
Another strategy to increase the feelings of happiness and therefore things to be grateful for is laughter. As they say, laughter is the best medicine of all. There are a few simple methods to increase laughter in your daily life:
- Subscribe to a YouTube channel that makes you laugh, regularly watch a comedian you like (one of my personal favorites I have to admit is, Trevor Noah).
- Set someone having a contagious laugh as your ringtone, maybe even as your alarm.
- Be childish every once in a while. Race someone to your front door. Start doing jumping jacks in public for no apparent reason. Make funny face expressions (not offending ones, only funny ones). This are just a few examples; I am sure you can think of some other “childish” and very fun activities which you haven’t done in a long time.
One more technique that I just started recently is to make two little cards (you can just cut an index card in half, or use the back of your business card) both of which say, “I’m grateful for…” or “I’m thankful for…” Put one on your desk, so you see it when you’re at work, and the other somewhere at home where you’re most likely to see it often. Maybe on the fridge or the inside of your door so that you can spot it right before leaving the apartment/ house, or my favorite place: next to the toilet. This way visitors who need to use the bathroom are also encouraged to feel more grateful, and well, there is usually anyways not much else to do while being on the toilet, is there!?
Last but not least I would like to encourage you to share your new found passion for gratefulness.
Maybe you want to help others feeling grateful by volunteering for a good cause. Maybe you can start to help out at a food shelter once a week. Maybe you can assist in a city or beach clean-up. Maybe you have a hobby that you could teach someone else free of charge. Think of something you would enjoy doing that at the same time would make someone else feel grateful for having you there.
If you are not shy and if you are quite active on Facebook, for example, you might want to start sharing daily/ weekly (whichever one you feel most comfortable with) what you are grateful for. Instead of updating your status with your dinner plans or food pictures. Start telling your friends something like “Today I am grateful for…” you may even include a picture of you, and one of our grateful items from our collection. If you think sharing what you are grateful for publicly on Facebook is a little too personal but you would still love to inspire your Facebook friends, go ahead and share at least one of our Facebook posts daily (I know a lot of you are already following this advice, and I absolutely love it. Every time I see someone shared one of our posts it puts a smile on my face. This is the way we will be able to inspire everyone around us and everyone around you to live a happier, more joyful life. To be in love with life, together with us and together with you.)
If you liked this blog-post about gratefulness, go and get started with our last advice straight away and share it with your friends and family to help them feel more grateful as well.