In a society where everyone seems to be concerned with what their next door neighbor has or what their coworker has accomplished, there seems to be less of a focus on what you already have. In fact, I would ask you to ask yourself: how many times a day are you thankful for what you do have vs. wanting what you don’t have? Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting stuff- we’re human beings and we all go through it. However, I think it would do us all good to also remind ourselves to be grateful for what we already have. And we can do this by developing an attitude of gratitude.
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I realize this sounds simple enough, being grateful for what we have. But being mindful about it and putting it into practice are two different things entirely.
What is Gratitude?
Your life is better when you feel blessed, when you can look around and say “Thank you, God,” or “Thank you universe.” Whether or not you are religious, when you see life as a wonderful gift, your experience is a richer one. Imagine going through life like you’re a child, and every morning is Christmas.
Of course, it is easy to think that gratitude comes from having what we want. We might imagine ourselves giving thanks if we had money, a loving family, and maybe a house on the beach. But we know there are ungrateful, unhappy people with these things. We also know that there are poor people full of gratitude for what little they have, so where does this feeling come from?
How to Create an Attitude of Gratitude
An attitude of gratitude arises from how you look at things. It is the natural feeling that comes when you recognize the real value of the people and things in your life. Focus on the good and you cannot help but have a better attitude and experience of life. Gratitude, then, is something you can encourage, something you can learn.
The first step is to stop and smell the roses. How can you be thankful for something you don’t notice or enjoy? By the way, roses really do smell great.
The second step is to make this appreciative approach to roses and life a habit. You don’t need to ignore the ugliness in the world. Just consciously choose to see the good and beautiful things, until doing so becomes automatic.
One way to encourage this habit is to start writing down every positive thing that happens to you, and all the things you like. Continue this until you start automatically seeing the good things in life. If you’ve ever bought a white car, and started seeing white cars all over, you know how awareness and focus can alter your perception of reality. In the same way, once you are aware of the good, and start looking for it, you’ll start to see wonderful things all over.
Keeping a gratitude journal in the morning will actually help you out more than keeping one that begins in the evening. When you wake up in the morning, write down five things that you’re grateful for. It could be something that happened yesterday, two weeks ago, or just anything.
Simple exercises like the one above train your mind with time. When you are in the habit of “counting your blessings,” gratitude, and a much richer experience of life is the natural result. You will have an attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. It may not look as good as money, a big car, a palatial house, or the latest makeover – in fact, you can’t see it at all – but, as I’m going to show you, gratitude has more power to change your life than all these material things put together.
The dictionary tells us that gratitude is “the expression of gratefulness and thanks” but this doesn’t begin to convey its real effect. Here are an alternative set of definitions.
Three Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
1. Create a Thank Bank.
A Thank Bank is simply a place where you can jot down all the things that you are grateful for in your life. You can split the bank into different accounts such as Family, Surroundings and Work, and then simply start writing out your thanks until you stop. Put your list somewhere safe and pull it out when you’re feeling down and you’ll instantly change your mood.
2. Show Gratitude Quietly.
Don’t turn gratitude into a promotional or motivational tool. Too much thanks is as ineffective as too little. Instead, express your thanks in quiet ways: a thought, a prayer, a one-on-one word, a note of appreciation. Give people gifts of thanks that aren’t bought at shops: a bit of your time, a sacrifice, something valuable to you. Remember the story in the Bible of the widow, who gave a small money gift in thanks even though it was worth everything to her.
3. Always Replace the 3 C’s With the 3 A’s.
As you deal with people on an everyday basis- your spouse, children, co-workers, neighbors, family, and sometimes feel the need to use one of the 3 C’s – complaining, condemning, and criticizing – replace them with the 3 A’s of Accepting, Acknowledging, and Appreciating. Accept people for who they are; acknowledge them for what they do; and appreciate them for just being around. Remember that when you appreciate others, your reputation and respect appreciates too.
There’s nothing complicated about gratitude. It’s something we can all do. We so often don’t do it because we forget, because we focus on the few so-called bad things in our lives, and because we take the wonderful things for granted. So change your life. Put gratitude just below your level of consciousness, and every day will become one of joy and delight.
Starting a Gratitude Journal
To remind myself of what I have, I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. It’s really simple- an empty three ring binder and notebook paper. Across the top of each page, I write the following: Today I’m Thankful For and put the date. Then I write down five things that I’m thankful for.
It keeps me in check and reminds me to be grateful for what I have instead of wishing for what I do not have.
If starting a gratitude journal is something that you’d like to try, I’ve created a printable sheet to help you get started.
These all print out at 8 1/2 by 11, and if you would like another color set, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do!
How would you develop an attitude of gratitude?