This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS and by wikiHow staff writer, Christopher M. Osborne, PhD. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.
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There is good reason to believe that people who cultivate thankfulness tend to be happier and healthier than those who don't. X Research source Thankful people appreciate what they have instead of obsessing over what they lack. They express gratitude to others and often receive more gratitude in return as a result. They see each day as a new opportunity for happiness, rather than another challenge to struggle through. While some people may naturally be more thankful, don’t assume that you cannot nurture a more thankful perspective in your own life. It may not be easy, but you’ll be thankful that you made the effort!
Method 1 of 3:Being Thankful in the Moment
1Take a minute to be thankful for your life. Sometimes a good way to get back on track and feeling better is to take a break. You'll need to identify things to be grateful for, and sometimes the break itself is a good reason to be thankful.
- At work, school, etc., go for a walk around your building or step outside for 15 minutes to breathe the fresh air and muse about how thankful you are for the opportunity to take a break, to stretch your legs, to feel the sun, etc.
- Take a moment to notice the little things you're thankful for, like your morning cup of coffee or your pillow when you lay down to go to sleep at night.
2Tell someone you appreciate them. So often life gets busy that you forget to tell people how much they matter to you, or that you've noticed what they do and it means a lot to you. Expressing your thanks to others will cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness that can spread out gradually. For example:
- If your spouse packs your lunch for you, call or text them something like "Honey, I know packing a lunch doesn’t seem like much to you, but I really appreciate how you always try to make my morning just a bit less hectic."
3Talk about gratitude with family. Set aside a time, like the evening meal, to talk about the things you were grateful for that day. Let each family member have a turn to discuss what made them thankful that day. X Research source
- Make it a routine to go around the table and mention at least 1 thing you’re thankful for before digging in.
- Try to be as specific as possible. For example, instead of saying "I'm thankful for all of you being there for me," you could say "I'm thankful that you all help me tend to the garden every weekend."
4Send thank you notes. It is really amazing what sending just a small thank you note can do. A thank-you note acknowledges that the person gave you something (time, effort, a gift) that they didn't have to and that you appreciate what they've done. You don't have to write a massive novel thanking them, just a few lines that let them know what they and their gift, time, effort, etc. meant to you.
- Thank you texts, emails, voicemails, etc. are great to send (and receive), but there still seems to be something particularly special about a handwritten thank you note.
- Your thank you note can be as simple as a post-it with a short message, or it can be written on a notepad with a flower or heart doodle.
5Give back as part of giving thanks. Being thankful isn't just about telling people you are thankful — it's also about giving back to your community and friends. This doesn't mean that you give back so that everything is even and no one "owes" anyone anything. Give because it’s the right thing to do and because it feels good to do it.
- If you know the person, help them directly. For example, you could take your grandmother to her appointments or help your friend move into her new place.
- If you don't know the person, continue their good work. For example, you could repay your college advisor by mentoring others.
6Focus on the intention behind kindness shown to you. When someone does something nice for you — gives you a gift, brings you a hot meal, offers to read over and edit your thesis — focus on how they tried to bring something good into your life. Someone gave up their precious time, money, etc., just so they could do something kind for you. X Trustworthy Source Greater Good Magazine Journal published by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which uses scientific research to promote happier living Go to source
- This focus cultivates an atmosphere of gratitude that is then passed on to other people through your actions and words, especially if you have children. X Trustworthy Source Greater Good Magazine Journal published by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which uses scientific research to promote happier living Go to source
7Make sure to say "thank you" regularly. Thank the barista who makes your coffee, thank the person who held the door for you, thank the customer service person who helped you figure out why your phone wasn't working. Speaking the words aloud can help cement the feeling of gratitude in your life. X Research source
- Use the words "thank you" as a sort of prayer or mantra. You can thank specific things, or you can just repeat the words over and over to yourself. For example, you could give thanks for the food you ate this morning, the rain for watering all the trees, your rain jacket for keeping the rain off, and so on.
- By cultivating gratitude (and by speaking it aloud), you can do things like ease anger, anxiety, depression, and other health problems.
- When you say thank you to people, make eye contact and smile so they can feel the sincerity.
8Find reasons to be thankful, even when it’s difficult. Sometimes it can be really hard to be thankful in your life. These are the times, however, when it is even more important to cultivate gratitude, because that will help you get through the hard times better than getting angry or upset will. X Trustworthy Source Greater Good Magazine Journal published by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which uses scientific research to promote happier living Go to source
- To cultivate gratitude for something like a difficult or boring job, make a list of the good things about the job: it gives you money so you can buy food and have a roof over your head, it gives you a chance to take the bus into the city and see the early morning sun, and so on.
- For something like a break-up or a death of someone you love, you should allow yourself time to grieve and be sad. Being grateful doesn't mean doing away with emotions like sadness, anger, etc. it simply means making them more manageable. After you've given yourself time to grieve, make a list of the things that you learned or are grateful for from the relationship, and then what you are thankful for about the relationship being over.
Method 2 of 3:Developing a More Thankful Mindset
1Keep a gratitude journal. Record your reasons to be thankful each day in order to cement them in your memory. It doesn't matter how difficult your life is at the moment, there is always something to be thankful for. Finding that will help you deal with the other parts of life. X Research source
- Record about five things you're thankful for every single day. These can be things as simple as "the sun was shining," or they can be as big as "my significant other proposed."
- Spend a little time each day reflecting on the things you're most grateful for. You may even find that you have more than five things you want to record.
- If you need a little reminder, download a gratitude journaling app for your phone that will send you daily notifications.
2Refer back to your gratitude journal as needed. When you're having a particularly difficult time, it can be beneficial to go back to what you've written previously. If it's a tough time, find the smallest things that you can be grateful for. X Research source
- For example, even if you have a terminal illness, you can be grateful for things like someone bringing you dinner, a warm bed, or your cat snuggling with you. All these little things can make the trauma of the big thing (the illness) more bearable.
3Get a gratitude buddy. Share your goal of becoming more thankful with a close friend or family member, and ask for their help. Choose someone you can comfortably talk to about the things you're grateful for. Also, make it a person who will hold you accountable when you go down the slippery slope of complaining about things.
- It might work best as a two-way-street — that is, each of you helping the other to become a more thankful person.
4Turn around how you think about difficulties. People who are thankful for the things in their lives aren't living an easier life than you. In fact, many people who practice gratitude abundantly have struggled quite a bit. They, however, understand that it isn't the situation that's the problem, it's how you think about the situation that makes it easier or more difficult. X Research source
- For example, if you have to work in order to pay for college, you could think about how your work is teaching you responsibility instead of taking away free-time.
5Use the right words to describe your life. Using negative language and labeling can make a situation more difficult, and make it harder for you to be thankful in general. For example, labeling it "my horrible illness" creates a more negative perception than simply saying "the illness that I have." In the second instance, not only are you not making the illness part of you, you are also utilizing neutral language, rather than negative. X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
- Include your gratitude in the words you use to describe your life. For example, you could say "Even though I have this illness, I'm thankful that I'm receiving wonderful treatment and that I have the support of my family."
6Be positive about yourself and other people. Bashing yourself and others will make you less able to be truly thankful. When you find that you're thinking negatively about yourself or another person, stop and turn that thinking around. For example, if you think "I am so stupid when it comes to math," tell yourself "I am having some difficulty with this math problem" instead. X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
- A simple change in language and perception re-frame things so that the problem isn't you, it's that there is a disconnect between you and this problem. And that is something that you can overcome.
Method 3 of 3:Cultivating Thankfulness with Mental and Physical Health
1Eat a healthy diet. Make sure you're putting food in your body that will help you feel good, which makes it easier to feel thankful as well. Go for veggies and fruits like kale, red peppers, and bananas; good carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grains, and oats; and proteins like salmon, nuts, lean meats, and eggs.
- Moderation and variety is important. Your diet shouldn't solely consist of fruits and veggies; you need protein and good carbs too.
- Be sure to avoid refined sugars and added salt as much as possible.
2Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Water is a necessary component to making sure every part of your body and mind runs smoothly. Take sips regularly, and drink before you get thirsty.
- Be thankful every time you can turn on the tap or open a bottle and have fresh, clean water to drink. Keep in mind that millions (perhaps billions) of people around the world don't have this luxury.
3Don’t skimp on the amount of sleep you get. Sleep is a huge component of healthiness and happiness, both of which make it easier to be thankful. While it's certainly admirable to practice gratitude even during those sleepless, anxiety-fueled times in your life, getting enough sleep can help make thankfulness easier to cultivate.
- Set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, create a comfortable sleeping location and a calming bedtime routine, and turn off all electronics well before bedtime.
4Follow a regular exercise routine. Exercise releases happy chemicals like endorphins, which help to regulate your mood and make you feel better. And feeling good is both a reason to be thankful and a motivator for practicing gratitude.
- Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can be something as simple as going for a run, putting on some music and dancing, or doing some yoga.
5Meditate regularly. Meditation is another useful way of dealing with mental health issues and a general sense of malaise in your life. It can also help to support your thankfulness and gratitude practices.
- Go somewhere quiet and meditate for at least fifteen minutes each day. Sit comfortably and take deep breaths. Focus on your breath. When errant thoughts demand your attention, acknowledge them and let them go when you exhale.
6Practice mindfulness. By remaining in the moment, you are making it very difficult for your brain to race ahead and worry or plan for the future, or become bogged down in the past. This is one way of practicing thankfulness, because you are immersing yourself in the present, and thereby giving thanks to the "now."
- Practice mindfulness while you eat. Focus on the food that you're putting into your mouth: Is it hot or cold? What is the texture? Is it sweet or sour or salty?
- Try this while going for a walk, or simply sitting outside. Notice the color of the sky and shape of the clouds. Use your nose to locate any scents, and listen to the wind in the trees.
- ↑ http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/gratitude/Emmons_McCullough_2003_JPSP.pdf
- ↑ https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Community/Pages/12-Tips-for-Teaching-Children-Gratitude.aspx
- ↑ http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition
- ↑ http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/application_uploads/Wood-TraitAndStateLevelsGratitude.pdf
- ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude
- ↑ https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_help_you_through_hard_times
- ↑ http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/19/12-ways-to-be-thankful/
- ↑ http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/11/19/12-ways-to-be-thankful/
- ↑ https://tinybuddha.com/blog/5-steps-to-change-your-perspective-and-overcome-your-challenges/
Remember, sometimes you will have bad days, where you're grumpy and dislike everything. That's okay. Don't beat yourself up because you aren't constantly floating along in a bubble of gratitude. That may be the goal, but no one's yet reached it.
Just because you learn to be thankful doesn't mean that bad things won't happen, or that you won't be affected by the things that do happen. It can simply help to make the things that happen easier to deal with and not as taxing for your mental health.
You can't always control what happens to you, but you can work on controlling how you respond to things.
About This Article
Even when things aren’t going your way, there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. For example, even if you hate your job and had a bad day, you can still be thankful that it allows you to provide for your family and be part of a community. Even in difficult situations, you can be thankful that you have the strength to make it through and learn from it. Try keeping a gratitude journal where you record 5 things you’re thankful for every day, like having nice weather, your coworker making you laugh, or recovering from a cold. You can also let people know you appreciate them whenever they go out of their way to do something for you. Not only will this make you feel better, but you’ll brighten their day too. For more tips from our co-author, including how to be more mindful every day, read on!
Reader Success Stories
"This article really helped me, because I forgot how to be grateful. Not long ago I was practicing gratefulness and a thing called "Law of Attraction". It was amazing. Everything that I wanted became reality. I did most everything that is written in this article, except keeping journal of what I am thankful for. So, every single day I started all over again. Then some bad thing occurred that got me back in a state of depression. Now I am trying to start again."..." more