I’ve known some people in my life who just ooze gratitude and contentment. They could be stranded on a desert island with rain pouring down on their heads and a pack of angry wolves growling at them from the bushes nearby, and they would find something positive about the situation. That’s not me.
It’s my natural tendency to be a little bit more “glass half empty.” I have to work at finding the good in situations that don’t seem obviously good. I don’t think that makes me a horrible person; it just means I need to practice. Since an attitude of gratitude isn’t necessarily my first inclination, I need little reminders once in a while.
Gratitude takes practice, just like anything else we want to improve. It might feel silly or futile to constantly have to remind yourself to be grateful, but when you do it consistently, you’ll start to see that those grateful feelings come more and more naturally and frequently.
3 Ways to Boost Your Attitude of Gratitude:
Create Visual Reminders:
Last year, I bought a t-shirt that says “Gratitude is My Attitude” from my friend Ali Katz, who is an author and mindfulness / meditation teacher here in Houston. (Unfortunately, she doesn’t sell the shirts anymore — otherwise I’d provide a link!)
I didn’t buy the shirt because I’m such grateful person, but because I’d like to be. The thing is, when you’re wearing a slogan across your chest that says “Gratitude is My Attitude,” it really forces you to be more aware of your thoughts and your actions. Can you imagine what it would look like to others if I were wearing that shirt while loudly complaining at Starbucks that my latte isn’t frothy enough, or telling a friend that my life was ruined because I had to reboot my cable box in the middle of my favorite reality show?
I’ve noticed that on the days when I wear my gratitude shirt, I’m more cognizant of how and what I’m thinking, more conscious of what I say to others, and more grateful overall. I sometimes put it on when I’m having a bad day, knowing that it will help me to have the perspective I need to get out of my funk. (On a side note, does anyone know where I can buy a shirt that says, “I know exactly where my cell phone and keys are at all times”? Or one that says, “I am super patient…especially while driving”?) :)
Just like the “red string around the finger” trick, I think that having a visual reminder to be grateful can go a long way. You could hang a framed quote about gratitude on a bedroom wall. Perhaps you could wear a bracelet or another piece of jewelry that reminds you to think grateful thoughts whenever you look at it. You could have an inspirational mug that you drink coffee out of every morning to help you set your attitude for the day. Or, you can do something as simple as writing a note to yourself that says “Be grateful” and sticking it to your refrigerator, your computer, or anywhere else you frequently look.
Write it Down:
On her blog, Ali wrote a fantastic post about simple ways to practice gratitude on a daily basis. She talks about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, or making a stress/gratitude list in which you write down all of your stresses and then counter-balance it by listing things that you’re grateful for. I love that she provides a way to acknowledge your stress AND your gratitude instead of simply burying the stress. Sometimes people get the impression that they need to be a completely stress-free, cheerful Pollyanna in order to convey an attitude of gratitude, but I think it’s about finding balance and putting your stress and worries into perspective.
I don’t know about you guys, but I am constantly writing down notes, ideas, and lists throughout the day. There’s no reason not to use some of those same techniques to remind myself about all of the things I have to be grateful for.
It’s difficult to be grateful when you’re going a million miles an hour in a million different directions. Spending just a few minutes in stillness and silence can help you to focus on all you have to be grateful for.
If you already have a designated time each day when you pray or meditate, try to incorporate some thoughts of gratitude into those moments. If you aren’t used to taking any time to be still, give it a try. You can even set an alarm on your phone that goes off at the same time each day to remind you to stop, take a few deep breaths, and focus on gratitude.
Challenge: Try at least one of the above things to help you remember to be grateful. See if it makes a difference!