3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

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It is so easy to lose sight of what things we have to be thankful for. The hot water to warm our cold bodies when we shower. The clothes to choose from when we’re getting dressed. Food to eat when we’re hungry. Roofs over our heads. Friends to laugh and cry with. Music to move to. I could go on and on. It is often stated that there is so much to be thankful for, that we are “blessed beyond measure” and yet, many times, in our daily lives we miss so many wonderful opportunities to cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is something that helps to bring joy to our lives. Gratitude helps life to feel wonderful.

Unfortunately, in America we are not socialized to cultivate gratitude, to be thankful for what we have. We are constantly shown images of things that corporations and advertisers claim will make our lives better, easier, happier. Even our day of national thanks, Thanksgiving, has turned into a display of greed that keeps people from their families and sometimes results in people being seriously harmed. In America, we must work to cultivate gratitude. Without being grateful we will take the things that we have for granted. 

Additionally, our brains are naturally pulled to focus on the negative. It’s much easier to complain about what’s wrong and what we don’t like than to dwell on the things we love and appreciate. We must actively focus our attention on things we are grateful for in order to avoid getting caught up in complaints and feeling like everything is miserable. In honor of Thanksgiving and for the sake of bringing joy into our lives, in this post I share three ways to cultivate gratitude.

Slow down to smell the roses

I know the idea of stopping to smell the roses is cliche but it is an essential component of cultivating gratitude. Many of us spend most of our time rushing around trying to accomplish everything on our task list, pushing to get to the next level in our careers and relationships. Fantasizing that if we just get everything done, if we just get that promotion, then we will be happy and make time to enjoy our lives. If you’re living like this, you will eventually realize that the magical time when you can enjoy your life doesn’t come unless you prioritize it. Slowing down to smell the roses means slowing the pace of your life and allowing yourself the space to take in small joys. It means living your life fully now.

Find joy in the little things

I encourage you to make an effort to notice small moments of joy throughout your days. For example walking into a warm building after being cold outside, laughing at your favorite TV show, a hilarious post on Instagram, cuddling with your pet, etc. Many of us wait for big wonderful things to happen; things that will be worthy of social media posts and dozens of likes. It is great when these things happen but if all we are looking for is big things we will spend much of our time missing the small wonderful moments that we experience every day.

Look for opportunities to show appreciation to others 

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in complaining and feeling irritable with the people in our lives. We easily recognize what they did “wrong” and just as easily miss everything they did well. In my work with couples I often encourage them to actively look for positive things that their partner does and to show appreciation for those things. This strategy can be applied to all aspect of our lives. Make an effort to pull your mind away from the cycle of complaining to look for reasons to show appreciation to people that you encounter. This will give you more opportunities to feel grateful and will likely bring some positivity into your relationships.

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