4 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Practicing gratitude can help you feel happier, improve your relationships, and strengthen resilience.
Our natural tendency is to focus on what we aren’t enjoying in our life, so practicing gratitude helps us to also notice and experience the good in our lives.
Personally, as I’ve kept a gratitude journal it has helped me to realize that sometimes good things happen without my having to create or control them.
The most important part of any practice is to allow yourself, to the best of your ability, to actually feel the gratitude. There are times when it can seem harder to feel our deep appreciation for the good things – it’s natural for us to have those periods. Practicing gratitude helps us to reconnect with the part of ourselves that can experience joy and appreciation.
When Feeling Gratitude is Hard
Try asking yourself, “What would it be like if I could feel gratitude?” You’re allowed and encouraged to use your imagination here, or perhaps remember a time when you felt that way.
You can also ask yourself, “What would it be like if I could feel gratitude even 2% more?”
Even asking these questions with no answer will help make space for an answer to come over time.
Sometimes it seems unfair for us to enjoy life when others we know are suffering. Out of loyalty to others we keep a lid on our own happiness.
If this resonates for you, try asking yourself, “Is this what this person would want for me?” and “Does it actually lighten their suffering when I don’t enjoy my life?” See if you can give yourself permission to honor their circumstances and also enjoy your own.
4 Ways to Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude – here are 4 options.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal can be a literal journal where you write down 1-3 things you’re grateful for each day. Some people prefer to keep a visual gratitude journal – taking a photo to represent something you’re appreciating today.
I recommend aiming for 3 things – 3 new things – each day. You can be small and specific, so it stays fresh. For example, instead of writing “I’m grateful for my friends,” you would write, “I’m grateful for Anna sending me a note today.”
If coming up with 3 things feels challenging or keeps you from doing it, simply dial it back to noting 1 thing each day (or most days). Remember it can be a little moment or something obvious we take for granted (like, “I’m grateful for indoor plumbing”).
Go for a Gratitude Walk
Head out on a walk around the neighborhood, the park, or even around the house. As you walk, greet each thing you see and say, “thank you.”
“Thank you, tree.”
“Thank you, wind.”
“Thank you, pavement, for easing our drive.”
“Thank you, mailbox, for receiving my mail.”
“Thank you, telephone wires.”
Write a Thank You Note
Think of a person who has made a difference in your life – maybe someone who doesn’t even know that they’ve had this positive impact for you.
Spend a few minutes writing them a letter about what they did for you, what it meant to you, and thanking them.
You could simply mail this letter, but we could all use more meaningful connection these days. I encourage you to set up a time to read this letter to them – maybe on Zoom or FaceTime where you can see each other.
Do a Gratitude Meditation
Settle yourself for a meditation. This can be as long or as short as you like. Take a few breaths.
If you can, drop your awareness down into your heart.
Allow moments, people, things, even qualities in yourself, to come to mind as you inhale.
On the exhale, say out loud or in your mind, “Thank you.”
Mining for Gratitude
If you’re having a hard time thinking of things to be grateful for, here are some places to look:
- What sensations or physical experiences are you grateful for? Perhaps the warmth of a hot bath, or the feeling of your cat in your lap, or the smell of your favorite meal, or the satisfying feeling of muscles stretching and supporting.
- What qualities and skills are you grateful for? What are things you are able to do or character traits that you appreciate in yourself or others?
- What are you grateful to others for? Where have you experienced a moment of connection, support, or a shared smile?
- What are you grateful for spiritually? Are there spiritual resources you appreciate in your life? Do you ever have a sense of connection with nature or the divine that you appreciate?
For more on practicing gratitude, see our guide to Cultivating a Gratitude Practice below.
Whatever practice works for you, I hope you will take a few minutes to see how cultivating gratitude works for you.
With gratitude for you for reading this post,