Some time ago I read and heard about the importance of gratitude. However, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I understood its true effect on my mood and my sense of satisfaction.
In this world so full of goals and messages that encourage us to achieve more and strive for perfection, it’s easy to forget to appreciate what we already have. The desire to improve is positive, of course, and messages like “conquer your fear,” “everything is possible” or “get out of your comfort zone” can help us dream, advance and grow. However, they can also produce, if misinterpreted, an attitude of constant discontent, frustration and a bitter feeling that “nothing is enough.” I know because I’ve felt this way, and have stopped appreciating aspects of my daily life; things as important as health, having a job that I love, having loved ones close by, etc.
Often we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. While we enjoy health and love, we’re not truly aware of their importance. Luckily, we can learn to value these things without needing to suffer loss or extreme situations, but by simply cultivating the habit of “acknowledging” all the good in our daily lives and being grateful for it.
#1.- Gratitude Journal
I propose a challenge: over the coming month, write three things each day that you’re grateful for. You can do it in a notebook or a virtual space, whatever you prefer. I prefer traditional notebooks and I always carry one with me, but another option is to write notes on your phone or send yourself an email. The important thing is find a space for writing that you can easily use. Find a quiet place sometime during the day and think about three things that you appreciate or that have made you happy and why you feel grateful. And write them down!
If one day you forget to do it, don’t worry; pick it up the next day. In any case, I suggest doing it continuously so that it becomes a habit. It only takes a few minutes and the effect is incredible.
- First because it gives us the chance to analyze our daily experiences from a positive perspective. Even if it was a hard day, we can always find something to be grateful for.
- Second because it makes us focus more on the good things that happen to us, so we can put them on our list. We enjoy our day more.
- And finally because it lets us realize how much we complain and undervalue the positive aspects of events, so we can transform complaint into gratitude.
Today I am grateful for:
#2.- The list of 100 “thank-yous”
Another exercise for the magical effects of gratitude, also verified by experts, is to write a list of a hundred things you’re thankful for. This requires us to use our creativity. I started by being thankful for what had gone well in different areas in my life, including having good health, a wonderful family, good friends, a job that I like, etc., but once I reached the number fifty I started thinking about things that I didn’t appreciate daily and involved great luck. For example, living in a peaceful country (there’s a large part of the world’s population that can’t say the same, suffering from war, violence or rampant crime), being able to turn on the faucet and have water or open the refrigerator and find food. I also included all the freedoms that many people, especially many women in other countries, don’t enjoy. And I even felt thankful for being alive right now.
It’s an extraordinary exercise. I take this list with me and sometimes, when I feel tired, frustrated or feel like complaining, I reread it and immediately my mood changes.
List of 100 thank-yous
#3.- Make a collage that represents the good things in your life
You can also turn the list into a collage of images. Cut out pictures from a magazine that represent the things or people that you’re most thankful to have in your life. For example, if you’re thinking of your family or partner, you could use a photo of them. Or if you’re thankful for your health, choose a photo that represents your excellent health. Make the collage visible somewhere in your house, or save it to your phone. The important thing is to have it at hand so you don’t forget all the good things in your life.
It’s a very powerful exercise.
Three more exercises to express your gratitude
There are many other ways of cultivating gratitude. Here are some more:
#4.- Make a list of people that you appreciate a lot and beside each name, write how they support you.
|Name of person||How does he/she support you? Reason for being grateful?|
#5.- Write a thank-you note to someone and… send it!
This isn’t just for thinking about what others do that is worthy of thanks, but also expressing it, which reinforces our gratitude and produces joy in those around us. It can be an email, letter, text message, etc. Something short and sweet. For example: a few months ago my father was hospitalized and each morning a very kind and caring nurse woke him up with a smile and positive attitude. Her generosity and spirit cheered us up during a difficult time. So my mother wrote her a thank-you note, which she also sent to the director of the hospital. It only took a few minutes to write. Recently, we ran into the nurse. She remembered us and appreciated the gesture, because the director had called her to his office to congratulate her on her good work.
#6.- Long thank you letter.
Write a long and detailed letter to someone on the previous list who you really care about. This time pick up the phone and read it aloud. Direct contact will enhance the effect of your gratitude.