What is gratitude?
The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as follows: the quality or condition of being grateful; a warm sense of appreciation of kindness received. As we approach the holiday season, practicing gratitude may move to the forefront of your mind. Personally, practicing gratitude is something that needs to become a permanent fixture at the forefront of mine, not just during the holiday season. It is easy to get caught up in all the negativity and chaos that surrounds us: the war in Israel and Ukraine, heightened geopolitical uncertainty, the upcoming presidential elections, etc. More often than not, what perturbs us and all that is/has gone wrong in our lives (and around the world) takes center stage. No light is shone on what is going right, and all that there is to be grateful for.
Here are 10 ways in which you can cultivate gratitude on a regular basis are:
- Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
- Ask Yourself Three Questions. Meditate on your relationships with parents, friends, siblings, work associates, children, and partners using these three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
- Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
- Share Your Gratitude with Others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your partner, friend or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.
- Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
- Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
- Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
- Watch Your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
- Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must look creatively for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful. Please share the creative ways you’ve found to help you practice gratitude.
As you spend some quality time with friends and family over the next month and a half, I would encourage you to practice expressing gratitude. For me, there is no better place to start than those that I share a last name with!