American author of inspirational quotes, Arthur Ward, said “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” And how true this is. Imagine wanting to show appreciation or thanks to someone and never letting them know. It really is just like wrapping a gift and not giving it.
I don’t know about you, but it seems as though life in general is getting faster and faster. We wake up, we go to work/school/other, we come home, we go to bed, the alarm clock goes off the next morning and start the process all over again. It seems there’s little time for anything anymore.
I personally felt like life was spinning by and I was being drawn into a swirling whirlpool of dissatisfaction with so many things going on in my life, even though there was really nothing going “wrong”. I was unappreciative and ungrateful despite having so many things to be thankful for. And that is when I decided I wanted to make a change. Life is what we make it and I wanted to make it good.
Every day I have a 35 minute commute to work and one part of it meanders through a residential neighbourhood. And every day I would pass by a house where the owners had the phrase “be grateful” on the street-facing side of their garage in a fancy font. I looked at it every single day and it would resonate with me (mind you, despite seeing the sign, I did nothing about it for some time… hahaha.) “Be grateful… be grateful… be grateful.” I would say it over and over in my mind and while I knew what it meant, I wasn’t really sure of how to be grateful for all the things in my life and furthermore, be grateful for what exactly?
And that’s when I decided to look into it. I wanted to be grateful, but how? And for what?
If you’re in the same boat, of not really know how to get started, here’s how you can practice being grateful:
- Appreciate everything
It’s easy be grateful for big, obvious things likes our homes, family and the such, but don’t forget about the small things that we often overlook. I try to be grateful for things that are easy to overlook or take for granted. Sometimes on my commute to work I will be grateful for the sunny day, or even the rainy day (afterall, it makes things grow), thankful that I have the clothes I’m wearing, the means to afford a car to take to work, that I have shoes on my feet, etc. Once you think of one thing, you can often break it down into the many things it encompasses as well.
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- Obstacles have meaning too
Anyone can be grateful for positive things. But we can be grateful for obstacles and challenges as well.
Growing up I had a mentally abusive step-father that wreaked havoc in my and my mother’s life and made things pretty unbearable at times. And yet, after I grew up, left home and got a little older, I would often say to my mother that I was glad he was in my life because it helped shape me into the person I am. I learned coping skills, patience, resilience and even compassion and I attribute much of that from living with him. Challenges we encounter in our lives can be valuable lessons that can make us better people.
It wasn’t until delving in this gratitude journey that I learned that what I was doing back then was actually being grateful for those challenges. We truly do learn from all aspects of our life. How we react to them and learn from them is what matters.
Mindfulness and gratitude often go hand in hand. Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique“.
Take time to think about five to ten things that you are truly grateful for, picturing each thing in your mind, and allowing yourself to truly feel the gratitude in your body. Know what happens when you practice this daily? You start to rewire your brain to be more grateful and when this happens, you start to feel happier.
- Write it down
I love writing down my thoughts because I find it a therapeutic way to clear my head and so it’s easy for me to write down the things for which I’ve been grateful. I like that I can refer back to them at any time.
I created my own little gratitude worksheets so that I could jot it all down. Feel free to download my FREE printable Gratitude Worksheets yourself and try doing this in the morning or at bedtime. Really meditate on the things you are grateful for each day. Either way, this is a great way to start the day on a positive note, or a great way to end the day with a positive perspective.
The task of writing things down gives you no choice to but to consciously focus on the words themselves and allows you to really think about each item, letting it sink into your mind.
- Give back
Have you ever “paid it forward” to someone? Or been the recipient of someone else’s unwarranted kind gesture?
A few years ago, I decided to stop on my way to work and hit a coffee shop drive-thru. There were two entrances into the shop parking lot, which meant people were having to “allow” those in the second entrance to join the line. The lineup was long and after several minutes of no one letting me in, a kind person gestured for me to go ahead. When I got to the window I decided to pay for the order of person behind me who had allowed me to go ahead as a thank you. It was only a couple of dollars and I wanted to show my sincere thank you. But this isn’t where the story ends. Lo and behold, about a year later, I was at the same drive thru on a not-so-busy morning. As I pulled up to the window to pay, the cashier informed me that the person ahead of me had decided to pay for my order. It was such a wonderful feeling. I have no idea who this person was, nor had I done any favor in which to deserve it, but it made my entire day.
Giving back, whether in this way, or giving of your time to volunteer somewhere is a great way to feel happy. Perhaps volunteer at a retirement home, a local food bank or soup kitchen, at a charity or even volunteer to help someone you know with something they need to do but maybe can’t do themselves. Giving to others feels good, hence the saying that there is more joy in giving than receiving, and is a great way to revert your gratitude to doing good for others.
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- Go ahead and say it
If you are feeling grateful for some of the people in your life, go ahead and tell them. This will instantly make the recipient of such words instantly happier as well. Lately I’ve implemented telling some of my coworkers the things I appreciate about them, whether it be an informative email (“Hey, Sally thanks for sending out that email about the upcoming training sessions, I’ve been meaning to look that up myself and forgot, so I really appreciated you doing that.”), or acknowledgement if they’ve shown me how to do something, or helped me in some way, or any other number of things. It makes me feel good to show the gratitude and like I mentioned above, it makes them feel good to hear it.
Want to get started with being grateful? Go ahead and snag my FREE printable Gratitude Journal sheets so you can start recording your gratitude journey!
Keep me posted on how you are being grateful, I’d love to hear about your journey and how it has improved your life.