Tips for developing an attitude of gratitude

A woman works at a desk in her living room while a child plays in the background.

If ever there was a time to adjust our attitude to focus on things we can be grateful for instead of allowing ourselves to drown in all the challenges of the day (or week, or month, or year), it is now.

It is so easy get overwhelmed by obstacles when we are facing days and days of staying at home, practicing social distancing, dealing with income interruption or worrying about loved ones who may be more susceptible to illness.

While it’s OK to experience those feelings and work through your worries, it’s not a good idea to get buried by them. If you start to feel overwhelmed, consider taking action to break out of the funk. 

Try flipping the switch and viewing your circumstances through a lens of gratitude. What would that look like? Research has shown that intentionally focusing on the positive things that happen—no matter how small—can make you a happier person, having short-term and long-term benefits.

A guy eats breakfast while using a laptop to facetime a woman.

Gratitude is powerful

Briefly stopping to remind yourself what you are thankful for in your life—family, friends, a good meal, a treasured memory—gives you a short-term burst of happiness. It just makes you feel good.

And people who are able to routinely express their gratitude seem friendlier, and that means others want to be around them more. They also describe themselves as less depressed and more able to cope with stressful situations.

Cultivating a feeling of thankfulness also seems to improve how you care for yourself, whether it’s getting a better night’s sleep, making sure to squeeze in their annual check-up, or simply making time for regular exercise.

So how do you start making little moments of gratitude part of your day in order to reap these long-lasting benefits? It’s OK to start small.

Hands hold a thank you card. Handwritten notes or cards are a great way to express gratitude.

Express gratitude daily

Go beyond the simple thank-you. For example, if a co-worker offers to pick up some extra work from your list of shared tasks, tell them how much you appreciate it, or follow up with an email or appreciative note.

Do the same for those putting forth the extra effort during this time of social isolation: delivery drivers, restaurant workers, postal carriers, shoppers, medical workers, public service employees and your neighbor who made you a face mask. 

Never underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you card, especially now when so many people are living their lives through video screens.

Write it down

Writing down the things you are thankful for is a way to reinforce the positives in your life. Jot down a few in a journal each day or collect them in a designated gratitude jar.

Not only do you benefit when you’re recording them, you benefit again when you choose to read them. It’s a great activity on Thanksgiving or the end of the year.

A dad colors at the coffee table with his two kids while sitting on the couch. He is teaching them about gratitude.

Encourage it in your home

Share your gratitude practices with your family. Encouraging everyone to share what they’re grateful for can become a small ritual before dinner, or a sweet thing to do when you tuck your children into bed each night.

No matter how you choose to develop your gratitude habit, it’s sure to add more happiness to your life. And because gratitude is contagious, it will bring happiness to those around you, too.

So, what are you thankful for? Leave a comment and let us know. (And thanks for reading!)

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