I was first introduced to the idea of grateful living around 2014. I started following a YouTuber’s vlogs, in which she’d share about her journaling practices. Gratitude writing was one of them, and I started practicing it too.
It felt nice redirecting the mind to think of at least five unique things from my day that I was thankful for.
As I started doing this, I had to look for more and more unique ways to count my blessings. As a consequence, years into self-development, gratitude writing became a fundamental way of becoming a more optimistic person.
Even today, when I look back at those notebooks, I smile from ear to ear. Those were small but valuable moments that I would have forgotten about, had I not written about them. So not only did the practice help me in those moments, it left me something invaluable to look back at and be even more grateful for!
But why bother? You might wonder, what even is the point of gratitude?
Let’s address that.
Ever since the 2000s, the ‘gratitude’ philosophy has exploded. But what is grateful living? Is it even necessary? And how do you get your mind to appreciate the world when sometimes it can feel like nothing is ever going right?!
Well, interestingly, our brains have something called Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). My theory is that they are unconscious reflections of the subtlest layer of our human existence – our ego mind.
And that while these thoughts can be primal, self-protective, or even self-sabotaging, they are not always true.
It is an ancient spiritual practice that the Buddha taught, us to repeat to ourselves, “I am not my thoughts“. This helps create a degree of separation from the negative mental chatter and allows us to look at things with more discernment.
In parallel to that practice is the art of actually changing the quality of the thoughts we do have.
So, practicing gratitude is about having positive psychology in a world that is perpetuating mental noise. Grateful living, in my eyes, is about rewiring the mind and our thoughts to acknowledge ourselves, and those around us. To see the silver lining in the grey clouds.
It’s about taking out the time to see the good in things, even if at first that seems impossible.
Of course, this isn’t about dismissing our negative experiences. Rather, to not wallow in our pain, and to move forward with a higher perspective.
But how do you put gratitude into practice? Let’s talk about it now.
How Can You Be More Grateful?
Here are some practical and genuine tips to encourage you to live with more gratitude in everyday life. I’d love to hear how they inspire your journey ahead – do share in the comments once you’re done reading!
Tip #1 – Start your day on a positive note.
How can you set your day up for success?
I know that some people recommend “goal setting” in the morning, but my (perhaps unpopular) opinion is that starting your day thinking about everything that hasn’t happened yet builds anticipation. And sometimes, anxiety. So instead of starting with goals, what if we started by counting our successes instead?
One idea is to look at what’s already been working well for you from the moment you regain consciousness. So, when you set your feet on the ground, acknowledge the basics. And as you carry out your morning routine, keep counting everything as a blessing that’s been making your life better. Here are some examples that I hope every reader can say about their life.
I’m grateful to have a bed to sleep in (and maybe an air conditioner/heater),
I’m grateful to have access to clean drinking water and warm food that fills my belly,
and I’m grateful to wake up to the opportunity to live another day and experience what’s possible.
Tip #2 – Identify the people and things that make your life easier, instead of harder.
We take a lot of things for granted. And I know that in the moments we’re feeling triggered by someone, it can be hard to appreciate them. As a part of your gratitude reflection, here are a few prompts to get you thinking another way:
– Who made your day better today?
– Does somebody drop you off at school/work every day, to whom you forget to say thanks when you get out of the car? Or to wish ‘good morning’?
– Do you have a steady internet connection that lets you talk to that long-distance partner or friend you’re annoyed with?
Tip #3 – Don’t be shy to tell those people that they make you happy!
Feeling gratitude in your heart is just the first step. If you want to experience the true ripple effect of thankfulness, I lovingly challenge you to put it into deeper practice.
Find ways to appreciate and compliment people, genuinely.
Not only will this break barriers in the most unstable of relationships, but it will also help you see people for their goodness, not just everything that’s wrong with them.
So who can you express gratitude towards today? And what’s possible for your relationship if you continue seeing the true essence of this person?
Tip#4 – Check in with yourself during the day, especially in the moments you’re feeling crappy.
One challenge many of us face is being told to stop overthinking things or to learn how to be more grateful. How can we do that if we’re feeling anything but positive about our life?
Remember, gratitude isn’t about dismissing heavier emotions. In my eyes, that’s toxic positivity and actually damages our well-being more than anything.
Rather, the attitude of gratitude is about being able to move through our emotions instead of wallowing in them, so that we can experience life in totality and not just out of emotions. It becomes a lot easier if we’ve allowed ourselves to actually FEEL sad, mad, disappointed, etc before working to shift our mindset.
So, my next tip is to acknowledge that no human being is positive 100% of the time. And instead of running away from the discomfort of those heavy feelings, what if we could thank the emotions that show up (because they have innate wisdom for us)? What if we could use those emotions as our personal compass to create more reasons to be grateful for?
But how do we face these uncomfortable feelings?
If we’ve never been allowed to experience our full range of emotions, we might learn to suppress them. And what happens when we stuff down our emotions? We are unable to “let go” of things – they keep piling on.
For instance, anger isn’t a bad thing but we may have been taught to suppress it. Some people may experience days of bitterness, or in contrast, have bursts of rage because of unprocessed anger sitting in their bodies.
For everyone, it’s helpful to one, know they are feeling anger. Two, to know that it’s NORMAL to be angry. And three, to find ways to express that anger in a way that’s healthy.
The same example can be used for all heavy emotions that block our ability to enjoy life’s gifts.
Becoming emotionally aware and resilient takes immense patience and practice. And I would love to hold a safe space for you to meet your emotions and develop the ability to move from emotional living to grateful living! You can apply for 1:1 coaching with me using this form, and we can explore what healing together looks like.
Tip #5 – Write about it.
So if you’ve spent your morning admiring life’s gifts, and the majority of your day expressing that gratitude to the world and its inhabitants, I have a strong sense that by night time you’ll have a lot of great things to say about the day! How can we solidify the feel-good vibes from such a day?
See if you can take out 5 minutes and write yourself an email about the 5 highlights of your day. My husband and I will often check in with each other before bedtime, to share what we’re feeling grateful for about today. A variation to this prompt is, asking yourself what you feel “abundant” in today. Weaving in some of that abundance mindset work while you’re at it *wink*.
Note: If you enjoy journalling, I’ve also put together tons of journaling ideas to complement gratitude writing, in this article.
Tip #6 – Return the favor.
What would the world be like if not only were we grateful, but people felt grateful towards us?
The truth is, we may feel unappreciated for many things, but the mind has ways of exaggerating and taking this disappointment to the next level. I recognized this in myself: I would often brush off compliments for my articles. I’d feel dejected after a few days that nobody cared about my work. And it took years to realize that people were genuinely appreciating what I did and that it was me that wasn’t receiving their love.
Grateful living isn’t just about being thankful for others – it’s also about acknowledging how you impact others too.
What are some compliments you brush off or blatantly reject?
And what would happen if you started embracing the love that was coming your way?
Tip #7 – Be the change you want to see.
Let’s face it. You might not be in an environment that promotes gratitude, but it doesn’t mean you can’t create it.
If it’s at work, be the person that always drops a mail to the whole team to acknowledge them for their hard work (no matter what level you are at).
At home, be the person that resolves tough situations at home by seeing the good in both parties.
I recently shared how appreciative I was of my bookstore managers and the way they always celebrated my little wins on the sales floor. One of the managers was in tears because she confessed how rare it was for people to acknowledge her hard work.
Because I expressed my gratitude, in the days that came, I noticed her expressing more gratitude to me. Of course, my appreciation wasn’t with the ulterior motive to get love back! But in hindsight, it reinforced the need to not just feel grateful, but to consciously create a ripple effect of it.
Tip #8 – Change your vocabulary.
If you were to really slow down and notice the language you use in daily life, it may surprise you how negative our choice of words can be! One of the most important healing tips I offer my clients is to be mindful of the words and phrases they use to express themselves.
Gratitude isn’t just inside out – it also works the other way around. So for instance, start using words like “blessed” and “grateful” in your day-to-day conversations. Not limiting it to just an Instagram hashtag!
Another example that I’m learning from too, is to start my answers with the positive. For instance, my husband felt annoyed at me after we came out of the recent Batman movie and I expressed extreme dislike. He had thoroughly enjoyed his time, but because of my headstrong vocabulary, I had tainted his experience of the movie. We realized that while I’m not intending to “create negativity”, my choice of words can have that effect.
As a result, we’ve both recognized the importance of expressing our positive outlook first (because the mind will anyway exaggerate the negative later).
Ultimately, gratitude is an attitude, and also a skill. It takes conscious retraining and inner reprogramming, and so, the more you practice it, the larger the ripple effect will be in your life.
Let me also take the opportunity to express my gratitude to you, for reading this and supporting my work. THANK YOU!
Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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