Say thank you! Studies have confirmed what many of us feel organically: cultivating gratitude is good for us and can improve our lives. We’re not just talking about small benefits but truly powerful ones that impact our depth of human experience. These include increasing happiness and self-esteem; strengthening our emotions and relationships; reducing materialism; growing our optimism and spirituality; improving our energy levels and health; and so much more. You can learn more about these benefits here.
With that in mind, start your own cultivation of gratitude. Hone in on the great things in your life, as well as the absence of bad things. Be thankful for not only having an amazing best friend who makes you laugh and gives you great advice but also for finally cutting out that one person in your life who was constantly bringing you down with negative energy. Reasons for gratitude can be big or small—meeting your soulmate or even savoring the best coffee ever—but acknowledge that these things individually and cumulatively add up the pieces to a meaningful and worthwhile life.
But, what if your life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows? What do you do if you are going through a rough time right now and you don’t really feel like you have much to be thankful for? Great news – you have lots to be thankful for; it’s all about perception and taking the time and energy to recognize all of the amazing things that surround you. Maybe you’re at a job that you don’t love. Don’t just focus on what you don’t like, think about the benefits your job offers you. You earn money and it feels good to support yourself. You’re learning skills that will help you find a better job that is closer to a job you can love. You have the time to pursue a passion on the side. There are countless things you can be thankful for; gratitude can be nuanced and challenges us to seek the silver lining in everything with which life presents us.
Okay, but maybe you don’t have a job. But, look at any and all good things in your life; from having a place to live in and feel safe to having great friends who love you unconditionally. One of the best things about cultivating gratitude is the fact that it’s not about wanting more or waiting for things to get better. It’s about taking a step back to thoughtfully examine your life as is and acknowledge the good things. It’s easy to forget or to take for granted the daily blessings we receive and it’s invigorating to adjust our point of view to recognize those positive aspects.
Putting Your Gratitude Cultivation Into Practice
Find a place where you can document your gratitude. This could be in the form of a personal journal, an online blog, or even a gratitude jar. Get into the habit of writing regularly; this doesn’t mean you have to journal everyday, but pick 1-3 times a week that you want to set aside to write about what you are grateful for. Make sure to be specific and include details. You can write about the same person or topic more than once, but be sure to detail what is different and what about this specific instance makes you thankful.
Here are three key tips in maximizing how good gratitude can make you:
1. Focus on experiences and relationships, not things.
Try not to place too much emphasis on material goods. Yes, many of us love having a smartphone (yes, iPhones are great) and are thankful for all the awesome things they allows us to do, but make an effort to focus on non-material aspects of your life. Think of things that moved you emotionally, helped you to learn something, inspired you to action. Make an active effort to reflect on meaningful interactions you have with the world, whether that be through other people or experiences.
2. Think about how you helped yourself achieve something great.
Don’t just write what you are grateful for but also write your role in the awesome thing happening and how you helped make it happen. For example, maybe you got a promotion at work – don’t just notate the fact you were formally recognized at work in the form of a promotion, focus on the efforts it took you to get there (all those hours you put in, your great teamwork, a positive attitude)—you earned it.
3. Quality, not quantity.
While thinking of three things every time you write is a great way to get started, don’t worry if three things don’t come to mind immediately. The quality of the things you are thankful for is more important than the quantity of the things you list. This is especially true for recognizing gratitude for things that were unexpected, surprising, special, or one-of-a-kind. Focus on being specific and detailing these moments rather than coming up with a long list.