Having an attitude of gratitude will literally change your life, and will also enhance the lives of others around you, but it’s not something that comes easily to many people.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be too easy to just take things for granted without truly appreciating what you have. But if you don’t appreciate the things you have, how are you ever going to feel real joy?
Fortunately, developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the easiest habits to acquire, and in this article, I am going to show you 11 ways to do it so that it becomes second nature to you.
1. Sweet the Small Stuff.
That’s right, sweet, not sweat. And by that, I mean big things up that you normally wouldn’t even notice in your daily life. This is something you can try right now, as you’re reading this:
- Imagine not being able to read this article, or any article, book, newspaper, or instructions, either because you never learned to read, or because you can’t see. It’s a horrible thought, so silently feel gratitude for whoever taught you to read, or for the beautiful gift of eyesight.
- Another Monday morning dawns, and you head off to work again. If it feels like drudgery, turn that around and be thankful that you can go to work to earn the money to pay for the things you do enjoy in life. It might not make work any less tedious, but it sure makes it worthwhile.
- Are you sitting comfortably? Well, that’s something to be thankful for, because that chair you’re sitting in is letting you relax, protecting your posture while you work, or allowing you to sit with your favorite child on your lap.
Now while these might seem like insignificant things to even think about, let alone be grateful for, it’s worth remembering that life is made up of thousands of small, ‘insignificant’ moments every day, so choose a few and say a silent ‘thank you’.
2. Say ‘Thank You’ As Much as Possible
While we’re on the subject of saying thank you, don’t just think it or offer up silent thanks to the universe. Thank you are two of the most powerful words you can say, and they can truly lift someone else’s day, even if you don’t know it. For instance:
- It’s become the norm to just walk through a door that someone else is holding open; most times it goes unnoticed because we’re too busy thinking, talking, or on our phones. The next time someone holds the door open for you, say a real, heartfelt thank you, and say it with a smile. It will lift your spirits and theirs.
- You can tell a lot about someone by the way they treat a waiter in a restaurant. Make them feel appreciated by taking the time to say thank you to them when they bring your meal and clear your table.
- Don’t just hop out of the cab when you arrive at your destination – let the driver know you are grateful for getting you to where you wanted to go safely and swiftly.
I could carry on listing examples, but you will have a general idea, and the thing is, by behaving in this manner, your attitude will be paid forward.
The man who held the door open for you will feel more inclined to hold it open for someone else. The waiter will serve her next customer with a bigger smile. The cab driver will pick up his next fare with a smile.
And all of these things cause ripples of kindness which radiate out into the world, all started by you. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling?
(You may also like: 99 Thoughtful Quotes to Help You Really Say Thank You)
3. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
You might have heard about gratitude journals before, but they are being touted for a reason. While thinking about things you are grateful for works wonders, actually writing them down adds much more power to your words.
Thoughts can be fleeting, but when you decide to keep a journal, you are making a commitment to gratitude. Writing it down also allows you to be more creative, and really examine what it is you’re thankful for, and why.
By filling in your journal at night, you are going to sleep on positive thoughts, and by filling it out in the morning, you are starting the day in the same way; why not do both for the perfect beginning and end, 7 days a week?
4. It’s the Little Things Which Mean So Much
We started off this article by stating that saying thank you is all-important, and it is, in fact, the cornerstone of an attitude of gratitude, but there are ways of going the extra mile. Little tokens of love or affection or thanks can be priceless, especially if they are totally unexpected.
- Pop a Post-It note into your partner’s briefcase, thanking him or her for something they have done, or for simply being them.
- Leave a little gift for a coworker for helping you out – a bar of chocolate, or a simple posy of flowers to brighten their day.
- Write a sweet message and pin it on the fridge or corkboard for your kids to see when they come down for breakfast, just to let them know you appreciate them.
All of these things cost nothing, or next to nothing, but can make all the difference to someone else’s day, and will, in turn, make them feel grateful for having you in their life.
5. Hand-Write a Letter
Writing a letter of thanks to someone works in the same way as writing in a journal – it strengthens the meaning behind the thoughts. If you have someone in your life who deserves your appreciation, write them a letter and see how much it affects both of your lives.
So powerful is it, that a study conducted at Salem’s University of Kent concluded that the more letters a person writes, the happier they become and that in fact, it actually lowers depression. (1)
Letter writing is fast becoming a lost art, and this is the perfect excuse to revive it again!
6. Keep a Little Reminder
If you’re at all interested in the Law of attraction, you will no doubt have seen The Secret, or read the book by Rhonda Byrne. In it, a man tells the story of the Gratitude Stone, a talisman he carries everywhere with him to remind him to offer up gratitude whenever he feels it in his pocket.
Your Gratitude Stone could be anything, as long as it’s small enough to fit into your pocket or purse (or wherever you will see or feel it multiple times a day. Maybe you have a coin, or a crystal, or even a tiny toy that fits in your hand.
By keeping one close by, you will have multiple reminders throughout the day to stop and think for a moment about something good in your life, which will automatically elevate your mood.
Here are some cool ideas for attitude stones:
- Heart Gratitude Stones (Fireflies and Mud Pies)
- Paint Marker Gratitude Rocks (Teach Kids Art)
- Gratitude Stones with Printable (Craft Your Happiness)
7. See the Light, Even on the Darkest of Days
We all have rough days, that’s a fact of life, and while it’s true that without the lows we might not appreciate the highs, it doesn’t have to be that way.
In any given situation there will be something to be grateful for, and while it may be a struggle to find it, it’s worth doing.
- Be grateful that you are alive
- Be thankful that the sun is throwing some light onto an otherwise dark day
- Appreciate that, even when things are going wrong, you have family and friends to support you
Finding the silver lining doesn’t mean you are diminishing or playing down whatever is going wrong, it just means that despite the bad thing, there is still plenty to be grateful for, and that is often the difference between hope and despair.
(For more positivity: 65 Positive Quotes You’ll Need When Life Gets Tough)
8. Wear the Shoe on the Other Foot
It can be all too easy to forget that the person on the other end of our lack of gratitude is actually a human being with thoughts and feelings, so it can be a real leveler to look at things from their point of view.
Imagining how you would feel if you did a kind thing for someone and they ignored you – just took it for granted without a word of thanks. It would suck, right?
Keeping this thought in mind will make it even easier for you to have an attitude of gratitude throughout your life.
9. Pay it Forward
As well as being grateful to receive kindness or generosity, a wonderful way to foster the feeling is to pay it forward, too. While kindness can never be repaid, we can spread kindness by way of thanks for what someone has done for us.
There are multiple ways of doing this, and it’s even more powerful when it’s done completely selflessly, and without expecting or needing to be thanked or recognized – just let it be enough to know that you have brightened someone else’s day.
- Pay for a stranger’s coffee. Just ask the barista to charge you for the next person’s order, and by the time they come to pay, you’ll have left. It’ll only cost you a few bucks but will truly make their day.
- Send a care package to a military unit on active duty, and remind them of home.
- Donate dog or cat food to an animal shelter. Most of them rely on donations, and you will be helping to save a life. Not only that, but think of the joy each of those animals will bring to the person who ends up adopting them, an adoption which might not have happened were it not for your generosity.
Paying it forward doesn’t even have to cost anything at all, because there are plenty of ways in which you can do it without any financial outlay at all.
- Donating blood will, undoubtedly, save someone’s life. You’ll never know the recipient, and they will never know their donor, but that 30 minutes you give up out of your day will change someone’s life.
- Offer to take a photo for a couple or family instead of one of them having to be behind the camera. That photo will be looked at in years to come, and it could be one of the only ones in which all the family are together in one picture.
- Teaching a child to read can mean as little as a couple of hours of your time, once a week. Volunteer at a local school and you will be helping a child to not only discover the joy of books but will also be giving them a chance at a better job when they’re older.
Paying it forward can take a million different forms, from a simple smile to paying for someone’s gas, or leaving a cake on a new neighbor’s doorstep to donating stem cells to help someone with an otherwise incurable illness. It’s doing something for someone you don’t necessarily know, without any need for thanks or recognition, and it makes the world a much better place.
More ideas on how to pay it forward:
- 101 Ways to Pay It Forward Printable (Winkler Community Foundation)
- 60 Selfless Ways to Pay It Forward (Charter for Compassion)
10. Celebrate YOU
In your enthusiasm to show gratitude to other people, and to pay kindness forward, it can be easy to forget someone much closer to home who deserves your love and attention – you! Learning to like who you are is a great way to show appreciation for yourself, and there are many ways in which you can achieve this.
Start with your body, it’s been with you right from the start:
- If you have stretch marks, be proud of them! They came about as your body adjusted to keep your babies safe. They’re your stripes and you’ve earned them, so thank your body for the gift of your children
- Your legs carry you through life; so what if they’re too thick, thin, short, or long…love them anyway.
- Appreciate every single gray hair you notice on your head. Each one comes with wisdom and another year passed, and each year you have is definitely worth celebrating.
- Lines and wrinkles tell a story. Show gratitude for every laughter line, because it represents a time you smiled, and for every frown mark because it stands for a problem which you’ve lived through and survived.
11. And Finally…Wake up and Smell the Coffee
And I mean that quite literally. Start noticing the things around you – the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the sound of rain on the window, the taste of a delicious slice of cake…taking these things for granted means missing out on so many opportunities to feel gratitude every day.
If you’re lucky enough to live by the ocean, take time to sit and listen to the waves, and feel the salt spray on your face. If you live in colder climes, take a moment to watch the snow falling; the way it flutters, and the silence it invokes.
Spending a few minutes a day to seek out these tiny things will get you into the habit of noticing, and it’s when your mind is alert to all the wonders of life that you will begin to see all the kindness and generosity and opportunities which life affords you every single day.
And that is when an attitude of gratitude will become second nature.