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5 Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude in Your Daily Life

Updated: Apr 27

Ah, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, when I Googled it, is described as:

...a holiday celebrated by Americans on the fourth Thursday of November. It celebrates the story of the Pilgrim's meal with the Native Americans and is reserved as a day to spend with loved ones and for giving thanks. Most families observe with a large meal and sometimes a religious service.

So we need to give thanks and we need a holiday to remind us, and a large meal and...I beg football versus religious service.

But how many of us really take time to sit and think deeply about what we are thankful for?

When I have assigned this task of writing down 3-5 things a day they are grateful for to clients, they often report they don't know what to write. We are so busy being stressed, rushing from one task to another, scrolling our Instagram and Facebook feeds, that we have lost the ability to mindfully appreciate what our day has given to us.

I don't think we need a holiday to remind us. I think we need a daily practice to develop and attitude of gratitude.

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts. ~Henri Frederic Amiel

Some studies on gratitude are showing there are long-lasting effects on the brain and many scientists and therapists state that "gratitude is the antidote to depression".

Noting what we are grateful for in writing shifts our thinking from negative to positive, creating a surge of feel good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. The more we do it, the more we are firing those synapses.

What we fire, we wire.

Gratitude is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Here are 5 ways to wire those positive synapses and improve your attitude of gratitude:

  1. Notice and Savor Every day we need to take a minute and notice what is going on around us. You're going to miss it all! The way your newborn smiled at you for the first time and your heart just melted; or, the way a patient or client said they appreciate your service; or a stranger letting you in traffic; a deliciously made latté, a sunset, a smile and a friendly chat with the cashier, getting your to-do list done without snags, laughter, your bed, a good night's sleep, your pet letting you scratch their belly. Take a minute to hear the birds outside your window, or pause on that first bite of the perfect burger. Pause for a millisecond and notice it...savor it. Then write it down later. If you really take a minute to consider it, I bet you could find plenty to be grateful for.

  2. Name It and Claim It While you're driving, name out loud 3-5 things you are grateful for. Ex: "I'm grateful for the party I had last month where we had so much fun and everyone laughed so much. Or, I'm grateful for the air conditioning in this car right now and my full tank of gas.

  3. Make Connections- Have you ever read Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle? It's a brief children's story about a boy who wants pancakes but his mother says she will need his help. So he is sent to first cut down the wheat, then take it to the miller to grind. Then they need an egg from the chicken, and milk from the cow, and to churn butter by hand, then to build a fire and get jam from the canning cellar, and, so on. You can't help but feel exhausted. Truth is, it still takes all that to make our pancakes today, except we don't do all that work ourselves, and, we don't see the people doing the things that they do in that book. Someone is still milling our wheat into flour though, and making our butter and preserving our fruit. So when you sit down for your next meal, take a minute to think about all the people and processes that made it so simple for you to just put fork to mouth.

  4. Volunteer This one may seem like a stretch, but when you volunteer or do something charitable, it can help you to feel more gratitude. I encourage more than just the soup kitchen on the holiday. What I suggest is a monthly commitment. Maybe you can budget an amount to charity every month. It can be the same organization, or you can drop some cash in a hat when you pass the next busker, or buy some extra food on your next grocery run and drop it at the food pantry box. What you'll notice is that it both feels good and it does good. Win. Win.

  5. Express Gratitude Yes, that's what we've been discussing, but I mean tell people! Thank the waitress, the Uber driver, the cashier. And, especially thank your loved ones. Send them a card. Tell your spouse how much your appreciate that dinner is on the table every week night when you get home. Thank your kids for doing their chores without being reminded, or just remind them how much you love them for who they are. Be specific to really fire their feel good hormones. Everyone responds to gratitude.

Maybe this season, think about starting a 30-day gratitude list. Just three to five things you noticed from each day. Dig deep, pay attention, get creative. And let me know if you noticed any changes.

You owe it your brain, to your overall health, and to the people around you.

Today, I'm so grateful for any of the readers who show up here, even if it's just one. I'm grateful for my ability to write and to be brave enough to put my thoughts out here. I'm grateful for the work I do and the trust people put in me to help them. Now you...

Reach out now if you'd like to learn more about managing stress through the practice of gratitude.

thanks spelled out on pumpkins and thanksgiving themed items


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