10 Ways to Be More Thankful This Year
Being thankful and showing gratitude seem like easy enough concepts, but our human nature has a way of interfering with that. It takes a little more effort and mindfulness to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. This time of year there is a concentrated effort to focus on thankfulness, but how can we extend that mindset to the rest of the year? Once Thanksgiving passes, will we slip into our old ways of feeling discontented? Comparing ourselves to others? Always wanting more? Not appreciating what we already have?
It's time to put a stop to that circular negative thinking and reset your thought patterns to a more positive path. Here are ten ways to be more thankful this year and ways you can incorporate gratitude into your everyday life.
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Thank Others
Make a concerted effort to express your appreciation to those around you who make your life better. From the small things to the big things, one of the easiest ways be more grateful is to acknowledge that you have a lot to be thankful for. Every time you verbalize these moments of gratitude out loud to others, you in turn are simultaneously being more thankful yourself. Funny how that works, right? Sprinkle those words of thanks everywhere and see how your perspective changes—and how you positively impact the lives of others in such a simple yet meaningful way.
2. Thank Yourself
More often than not, we're harder on ourselves than we should be. Quiet your own inner critic by nurturing your thoughts with gratitude toward yourself and the good things you do each and every day. Focus on what you've done that has impacted your own life in a positive manner. Did you choose a healthy meal? Did you exercise? Did you do a good deed? Did you complete a big work project? Did you achieve a goal? Whatever accomplishments you made today, whether large or small, take time to notice them and thank yourself. It may sound silly but it's a powerful way to ensure that you maintain a healthy, balanced, positive inner dialogue that so often can be muted by our own critical thoughts and negative self talk. Too many negative thoughts have a way of intruding into our minds, monopolizing our thoughts, and affecting our moods which ultimately affect our day-to-day life and well-being. Be proactive and stay mindful of the progress and successes you've experienced each day and you'll keep the effects of too much negativity at bay.
3. Say "Thank You" Out Loud More Often
Piggybacking on these first two points, saying the two little words "thank you" out loud and more often are the fastest and easiest ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and share it with others, as well as with ourselves. Sometimes we are more appreciative in our heads than we are out loud. Other times we're not feeling appreciative at all and need to first think it and then verbalize it for it to really make a difference in our own heads before it can then be extended outward to others.
4. Write Down Your Moments of Gratitude
Journaling your moments of gratitude is an effective way to reflect on your day and take pause to bring attention to the things that you're thankful for in everyday life. It's also a helpful tool during moments when you're struggling to find something to be grateful for on one of life's bad days, which we all have. Reading over your previous entries is an excellent way to remind yourself of the good things and the good times. They can motivate you, inspire you, and give you some much needed refocusing in times when you need it most.
5. Acknowledge the Negative But Focus on the Positive
Of course it's important to be realistic and not ignore the negative things that occur in life. Acknowledging the negative but not dwelling on it is the key to overcoming. Take a little time to mindfully take note of the not-so-good things that happened in your day, but always try to put a positive spin on them. Did you learn a lesson? Could it have been worse? Did you gain some compassion? No matter what the occurrence or how hard things seem in the moment, take time to ask yourself this important question: What is good here?
6. Reflect Inwardly, Look Outwardly
Inward reflection is good, but spending too much time dwelling on our own life's narrative or what could have been is not good. Research suggests that people are more likely to feel gratitude when they look outside of themselves and their own lives. Empathy can be a trigger for gratitude, so the more the better. Those who focus more outwardly tend to experience stronger feelings of gratitude and thankfulness overall.
7. Set Yourself Up for Gratitude
Mental health, physical health, mood and overall well-being are all intertwined. Set yourself up for gratitude by taking care of yourself and your needs—from the emotional and mental to the physical and spiritual. Make sure you're exercising, eating well, getting outside, sleeping well and enough, and maintaining meaningful relationships with others. Having a balance of all these things helps you to maintain a healthy outlook and perspective on life, especially when the hard times roll in (and they will). Finding gratitude in the difficult times is the ultimate test. Prepare yourself for whatever life throws your way and find peace knowing that you will be able to handle the bad while finding the good that still exists.
8. Model Thankfulness to Others
The best way to spread thankfulness is to be an example of it. People will notice what you do more than what you say. Are you modeling thankfulness to your kids? To your partner? To your coworkers? You can't expect from others what you're not willing to give yourself. Are saying "thank you" to your kids when they clean up a mess, help with task, or offer up a thoughtful gesture? Did you thank your coworker for their help or assistance? Have you thanked your loved one for the little things they do every day to make your life better? Let others know that you appreciate them. Thank them out loud. Take notice of their good and helpful deeds often. Your example will surely be an agent of change for others.
9. Moderate Your Media
Social media can be both a positive and negative influence in our lives. It just depends what you're looking at, what you're reading and what you're thinking about. Are you setting up unrealistic expectations for yourself or others? Are you comparing yourself to others? Are you inundated with negative news feed and images? Or are you using social media to promote the positive aspects of life? Thankful people take the opportunity to use these cues to trigger gratitude. How? There are a couple of ways. Research has found that positive thoughts shared on social media spread faster than than negative—something that makes the gratitude process a lot easier when using the internet. Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude researcher and psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, suggests assembling an archive of postings on Facebook and Instagram to pull from when you need a reminder to be grateful. This method will help you cue happy memories through pages that you normally visit on a daily basis. "Technology and devices are criticized because you’re less connected, but if used correctly I think it can be the opposite,” Emmons said. You can also use social media to send out good vibes by simply sending out a quick text of appreciation or making a positive and affirming Facebook comment.
10. Volunteer Your Time
Volunteering yourself and your time forces you to look outwardly. It's a way to "pay it forward" and do a good deed for no other reason than you choose to. You often find that your perspective changes in the process. You are more in tune with other people's needs and struggles and spend less time dwelling on your own life's problems. It helps you to put yourself in another's shoes and develop empathy for someone who is experiencing struggles greater or at least different than your own. If nothing else, you can be grateful that you don't have that particular struggle in your life, which in turn leads to an inward attitude shift and greater feeling of thankfulness.
Will you try adding at least a few of these thankfulness techniques into your life and let us know how they work for you? We'd love to hear your feedback.
How do you incorporate thankfulness and gratitude into your daily life?