With the holidays upon us, you might start hearing one specific question a lot more. Without fail, more than one person will probably ask you, “What are you thankful for this year?” After all, Thanksgiving is nearly here, and the holidays are usually a time to show your appreciation.
Between work, school, and any personal situations going on, though, you may be struggling with gratitude this year. If so, that’s OK. You aren’t alone. When life gets stressful or difficult, it can be harder to feel thankful. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost your grateful mentality.
Keep reading for nine tactics that can put you back into a more appreciative mood.
1. Start a Gratitude Journal
You’ve probably been told to write something down if you want to remember it. That goes for all the good things in your life, too. During hectic days, it can be easy to overlook or forget all the great things you have. To keep it all in perspective, consider starting a gratitude journal.
Make it a point to write something down every day. In fact, set a daily appointment with yourself on your calendar to put pen to paper. There’s one simple rule: positive thoughts only! Concentrate on using uplifting words, and your focus will start to shift away from negative experiences.
Basically, the journal is a double win. You capture all the happy things, and you can re-read them on days that don’t seem so good.
2. Don’t Forget the Bad
This might sound like a completely opposite idea from the gratitude journal. It’s not, really, because you won’t be dwelling on past negative things. Remembering the bad things sometimes, though, can help you keep your current life in perspective. This is especially true if you’ve come through some tough times.
When life seems upsetting at the moment, pause and take a deep breath. Think back to a time that might have been harder. Focus on what you did to make it all better. Look at your “then” and “now” side-by-side — it’s an easy way to feel grateful for where you are today.
3. Watch Your Words
When it comes to expressing yourself, words matter. You can set the tone of a conversation with a few simple language choices. The same is true for your attitude and mood. If you want to feel more grateful, choose words that reflect those thoughts.
Many people opt to talk about the gifts they have received or their blessings. If you prefer, you can also use the word “fortunate.” The point is to concentrate on the good things you have received. It takes the focus off things you’ve done and puts it on the kind things you’ve been given.
4. Give Your Time
For many people, giving back to others is a huge part of capturing gratitude in their own lives. When you find a way to help other people in need, it can trigger two responses. First, seeing someone else’s hardships can make your own problems seem smaller. Second, doing something nice for someone else boosts the way you feel about yourself.
During the holidays, there are dozens of ways you can volunteer your time. Think about delivering meals to older adults who are homebound. Donate time to serve in a homeless shelter. You can even be a social buddy in a nursing home or orphanage one day a week. Whatever you choose, save the time on your calendar. You definitely don’t want to be late!
5. Focus on the Small Things
To be honest, if you’re waiting for something huge to happen to feel grateful, you may be regularly disappointed. Big things — new jobs, bucket-list vacations, and new houses — don’t happen every day. So, it’s a good idea to zero in on the smaller things.
Did the grocery store start carrying your favorite ice cream flavor? Or was it finally pretty enough on the weekend to plant your flower garden? These are everyday things that can make your day-to-day life better. Don’t discount them. They can go a long way to elevating your gratitude.
6. Pay Attention to Intentions
When someone gives you something or does something for you, pay attention to their motivation. Concentrate on why they did it. That can be one of the best ways to boost your appreciation.
It doesn’t matter if the cake is a little wonky on one side. Maybe the pattern in the hand-knitted scarf is a little off. So what if they brought you a French Vanilla latte when mocha is your absolute favorite? Focus on their desire to do something special for you. Their kindness may even inspire you to do the same thing for someone else.
7. Learn to Meditate
You’ve probably heard that meditation can help you handle the stress in your life. That’s true. It can also be a powerful tool for enhancing gratitude. Consider making it a point to carve out some time for it every day. Choose the morning or evening — just pick a time you can devote to quiet concentration.
There are plenty of guided meditations you can use. Select the ones that guide you to think more about love and kindness. They can go a long way toward promoting acceptance, forgiveness, and, yes, gratitude. When you can, think about specific instances when you’ve been thankful. Those thoughts can promote more positive thinking.
8. Thank Someone New Each Week
It’s easy to thank your partner for loading the dishwasher. Expressing appreciation to your co-worker for grabbing your coffee from the break room is simple, too. In fact, these quick-and-easy thank yous become routine. Their impact may even start to wear off. If that’s the case, it’s time to shake things up.
Look around and think about everyone else you interact with regularly. It could be your postal carrier, the bank teller, or the police officer who directs school pick-up line traffic. Be purposeful when you choose someone, and express your appreciation based on what they do. Showing your gratitude could be simply smiling and saying hello. It could also be baking cookies as a surprise treat. The choice is yours, so get creative!
9. Create a Bedtime Thankfulness Routine
After a long, stress-filled day, it can sometimes be tough to focus on the positives. There’s a key to creating an overall grateful attitude, though. It’s consistently reminding yourself of the good things that happen. Taking time out for a daily reminder at the end of the day can help you do that. It’s a good idea to set a calendar reminder for yourself so you can devote this time every night.
Take time nightly before you go to bed to ponder the good things from the day. You can choose to write it down or just say it out loud. Absolutely, lead with the major things. Just don’t forget to include the small stuff. Let’s get real; it’s a great thing when you make that stoplight on your commute to work. It means there’s time to grab coffee and scroll through the news before your morning huddle.
Between work, family, and anything else, life can get super busy. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose sight of the bright spots. That’s why it’s so important to slow down and identify the good things that happen. When you take the time — and use these strategies — you’ll probably realize you have bunches of reasons for gratitude.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by George Dolgikh; Pexels.com; Thank you!
Student at UC Berkeley, currently working on a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Sciences and Business Administration. Experienced in CSX, productivity management, and chatbot implementation.