Here are some powerful exercises to help create and condition yourself to form an attitude of gratitude.
Create a Gratitude Journal
Set aside time daily for quiet reflection and write down a list of things that make you feel grateful. Remind yourself of the people, experiences, surroundings, benefits and surprises (no matter how big or small) that have brought positivity and value to your life in some way. By establishing this routine practice, you will start to redirect your attention to developing more wholesome thought patterns, while eliminating negative thoughts.
Practice Gratitude Rituals
Find a way to incorporate gratitude into your daily life, whether it’s when you first wake up, before a meal, during a run, while commuting to work, or right before bed. You can get as creative as you like with this process developing personal rituals that help remind you to practice giving thanks.
Remember the Bad Times
It may sound counterintuitive, but when you remember the hard times, it can really put things into perspective. You may now have what you once longed for, or can see how much stronger you are now for going through a specific experience or hardship. When you can dig deeper, your emotional attachment to the practice becomes stronger.
Use Your Five Senses
Make the most of the five senses – the ability to touch, see, smell, taste and hear – to appreciate being alive on the fundamental level. It helps to see the human body as a gift and pathway to experience so much in this world.
Create Visual Reminders
We often become ungrateful because of the human tendency to forget and lose mindful awareness, especially since our brains are naturally wired to seek out newness and novelty. So, it can prove to be extremely powerful to use visual reminders to help trigger feelings of gratitude.
- Photo of a loved one or a memorable experience
- Sentimental items (something that makes you feel nostalgic or reminiscent like travels, concert tickets, childhood memories)
- Tokens of life-changing moments (weddings, birthdays, a baby, an award)
- A framed quote
Write a Gratitude Oath Statement
Research indicates that making an oath to perform an action increases the probability of following through. So, if you create and write down your own gratitude vow (i.e. I vow to count my blessings each day), you will be prompted to practice it every day.
Pay Attention To Your Vocabulary
It’s amazing what happens when you start paying attention to the words you use on a daily basis. Incorporate vocabulary that points to gratefulness such as gifts, grateful, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate and abundance.
Pick Up The Phone
The fastest and easiest way to practice giving thanks is to call or text someone and let them know why you are grateful for them. It’s a sure way to put a smile on both of your faces.
Think Before You Act
The next time you feel like complaining, first think about and say one thing you are grateful for.
Notice and Appreciate the Little Things
We tend to focus and dwell on the smallest negative issue, but why not reframe your mind? Think about a positive moment and absorb the feeling to the fullest.
Say Thank You
The simple phrase of thank you can go a long way. No matter how big or small the gesture, whether it’s directed toward the coffee barista or your rideshare driver, let them know their effort is appreciated.
Helping others is perhaps the most impactful way to be thankful for your own situation and spread gratitude within your community. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, the local animal shelter, a park clean-up…the possibilities are endless!
How to Write a Note of Gratitude
Follow these tips to craft a gratitude note for yourself, your friends/family, or others. These can be simple and straightforward or more thought-provoking.
Gratitude Toward Yourself
- Reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings (such as a stable job, a comfortable house, etc.) In this way, we can explore the depth of our emotion for something or someone.
- Record events that were surprising or unexpected. Since human brains are wired to seek out new experiences, we tend to savor surprises and thus stronger levels of gratitude are easily elicited.
- Think of something that makes you unique.
- Write about what you have in your life now that you didn’t have a year ago.
Gratitude Toward Family and Friends
- Focus on the people you are grateful for rather than things – it has a greater impact, since it is with our personal relationships that we connect the most.
- Thank them for being a part of your life.
- Think of a time they did something special for you.
- Pick a random photo from your phone and write what makes you grateful for that memory.
Gratitude Toward Others
- Reflect on a customer service experience that was exceptional.
- List three ways to show gratitude without saying “thank you.”
- Look at your house, your clothes, or other material goods and think about the work that went into it.
- Be thankful for the inspiration in your life (a favorite musician, actor, author, etc.)
It’s important to note that journaling will be more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and grateful. This also means that going into depth about a particular gift for which you are grateful will ultimately benefit you more than a long list of superficial things, because you are connecting emotionally on a deeper level this way. Remember, this is a feeling exercise, so it’s OK to get personal! Lastly, do not go overboard with journaling if it starts to feel like a chore. Since we are naturally programmed to adapt to positive feelings quickly, it’s important to follow a pace that you will actually benefit the most from in the long run. If that means journaling a few times a week or once a week consistently instead of daily, then do that. The idea is to transform to a more abundant mindset and find purposeful clarity so that you can lead a happier, more intentional existence.