3 Ways to Foster an Attitude of Gratitude
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is defined by the dictionary as a noun, meaning "the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful". Most people relate gratitude to Thanksgiving, when they go around the table and say what they are thankful for- family, friends, a job, health, etc. But gratitude isn't just a noun, a thing we do once a year; gratitude is a verb -- an action that can and should take place every day of the year and not just on special occasions.
Gratitude Is An Action
The dictionary may say that gratitude is a noun, but it is, in fact, a verb. A verb of course is a word that denotes action and gratitude is very much an action because it requires conscious thought, analysis and practice. If you have to think about what you are thankful for and why you are thankful for it, and then put that thankfulness into practice to produce a positive result, then it only makes sense that gratitude is an action verb. However, most people just stop at thinking about the things for which they are grateful, and even less people think about why they are grateful for that thing. Only the ones who have truly figured out the secret to happiness through an attitude of gratitude can turn their thankfulness into an action.
Step 1- Thought
So how does one learn to have an attitude of gratitude? The first step is to consciously think about the things you are grateful for. This step is by far the easiest. Many people could sit down and make out a long inventory of their blessings, from having clean air and water to their morning cup of coffee. In fact, making a list of the things for which you are thankful is a great way to train yourself to have a more thankful attitude because thoughts slip in and out of our minds a thousand times a day; making a physical list and having something concrete to refer back to keeps your thankfulness list at the front of your mind.
What are you most thankful for?
Step 2- Analysis
Now that you have made a list of the things you are thankful for, it's time to dig a little deeper. For each item on your list, ask yourself these four questions:
- What would my life be like without this person/thing?
- What kind of work did I have to do in order to have this person/thing in my life?
- How are other people affected that do not have this person/thing?
- How has my life improved because of this person/thing?
These questions can apply to anything on your list. For example, if you are grateful for your mother, think about what your life would be like if she were suddenly gone. You obviously didn't have to work to get your mother (quite the opposite!), but you do have to work to maintain a good relationship with her, such as remembering her birthday and telling her you love her. Not everyone has a mother; how do think those people feel and cope without that relationship? And finally, how has your mother improved your life? Did she make you eat your vegetables so you could be healthy and have healthy habits as an adult? Did she make you do your homework so you could get good grades and have a quality education?
Step 3- Practice
So now you have made a list of the things that you are grateful for and have analyzed your reasons for being grateful for each of those things. That's great! But if you truly want to make gratitude an attitude, then you must take some sort of action for each item on the list.
Going back to the previous example in which you were thankful for your mother and then thought about all the reasons why you are thankful to have her in your life, now it is time to put your thankfulness into practice. Tell her how much you appreciate her and all the things she's done for you over the years. Tell her you're thankful for all the lessons she taught you even when you didn't want to learn them, and for doing all the thankless chores often associated with motherhood.
If you are thankful to have clean air and water, then volunteer to clean up trash from a nearby creek. If you are thankful to have your morning coffee, then perhaps pay for the coffee of the customer behind you in line, or make a pot of coffee for your co-workers.
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.— William Arthur Ward
Gratitude isn't just a feeling; it is a way of life that when you allow it to grow, can change your life for the better. Gratitude can change your daily perspective on the things around you that you take for granted. It can make you more conscious and empathetic to those around you who may not get to enjoy all of the abundant blessings that you enjoy, and it can inspire you to make positive changes in your life as well as have a positive impact on the world around you.
Putting pen to paper and making a list of the things you are thankful for makes those things more real, much more so than just having a transient thought. Consciously analyzing those things and examining how much they mean to you assigns a deeper meaning for each one. And finally, assigning a positive action for each item on your list and then making those positive actions a habit transforms gratitude from a noun to a verb.
Try adopting an attitude of gratitude today and see how much it can change your life for the better.