It’s your celebration of birth and you’ve just completed another year on Earth, or perhaps some other realm. Gifts and hand-written cards greet you alongside family and friends. Wishes come to life upon a sharp exhale over a towering triple chocolate cake, which is garnished in raspberry cream and topped with a few delicately placed blackberries, your favorite.
“Thank you so much, everyone. For all of this. Really,” you sigh and the onset of tears follows shortly after.
Every birthday, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, anniversary, baby shower, Christmas, and Hanukkah, every celebration comes with a series of responses to the generous and heartwarming things people do for one another. One of those responses is of course, “thank you.”
Presents and presence may elicit the appreciation and gratitude of others, which, for the sake of this guide is not exactly the example of gratitude we are searching for.
How is that not an example of gratitude?
Sure we are thankful for kind gestures and have a socially understood contract that prompts us when to give thanks. And we should continue to acknowledge such kind doings. However, this is simply the baseline.
Gratitude can be further embraced in situations that many of us have never thought of, like during an apology or every night before bed. It is one thing to be thankful, but it’s another to deliberately incorporate gratitude into your life.
In this Guide To Gratitude, we will discuss the importance of intentionally applying a thankful mentality in day to day life.
As a self-proclaimed thankful individual I still find that I’m no closer to actively bringing gratitude into my life as someone who may be “less thankful.” Some might call me respectful, others may coin me as well-mannered, and I wouldn’t disagree with either. Taking that step towards a life filled with thanks is a matter of practical technique.
1. Say Thank You…
Umm, duh? I would hate for the introduction to leave us thinking that being a grateful person counts for nothing. Absolutely keep saying thank you when someone is generous. Of course give thanks to a kindhearted person who holds the door open for you. Definitely keep appreciating those who positively impact you. But also say thank you, for example, to the people you love even when they aren’t doing thoughtful things that may warrant a “thank you.”
Bonus Points: Make eye contact when you say it. Gratitude lands in a more authentic place when dished up with a real moment of connection.
2. Start a Gratitude Journal!
Forbes and Psychology Today posted a “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” type post with an identical list. Number 5 was that grateful people sleep better! Both say that jotting down a few grateful sentiments each night before bed for about 15-minutes may help you sleep not only better, but longer too.
So grab a piece of paper or a special notebook. Take some time to stop…and proceed to think about all that you are thrilled and delighted to experience in this thing called life! To some, this may sound like a cheesy classroom exercise, but the effects are real.
In a Harvard study, researchers found that being grateful suggests a positive influence on our outlook and puts into focus what we have opposed to what we lack.
All aforementioned sources also point to other variations of starting a journal. Some include: thanking someone mentally, counting your blessings, praying, meditating, writing thank you notes, and more.
Bonus Points: At some point in your gratitude-writing practice, when you have a nice chunk of time set aside, try to write a comprehensive list of ALL THE THINGS you are grateful for. You might be surprised at what comes out!
3. Stop Saying ‘Sorry’ and Replace it With ‘Thank You’
Think about an employer you’ve had in the past. Let’s do our best to recall the one we admired and looked forward to interacting with. After a moderate mishap on your end, the boss calls you into her office. Yeah – you messed up. Fortunately she is nothing but understanding and constructive rather than criticizing and angry. Wanting you to learn from the mistake, she explains what can be done better next time.
This is the part where many people have the tendency of jumping straight to an unending series of apologies. “I’m so sorry. It won’t happen again I assure you.” Should you be sorry? Without question. But you should also be thankful that a comfortable, constructive environment has been established.
It is in these moments we are granted a golden opportunity to bring gratitude into our life unsuspectedly. “I’ve had bosses in the past who would tear me a new one for something like that. I appreciate how helpful and willing to teach me you have been. This approach helped more than you know.” Reciprocating that kindness in a time when defenses tend to come up is how we replace those go-to sorry’s.
Do take caution though and know when to take accountability for mistakes. This does not mean we forget to apologize when clearly appropriate. To be clear, this is an encouragement to replace the petty ‘sorry’ that we all too often toss around. Accountability is still key. As is appreciation.
Always be grateful.
In an effort to avoid the typical, and frankly expected abundance of thankfulness surrounding the holidays, I invite you to cherish this through the seasons. Solidify these values into winter and thaw them throughout spring. Grant warmth across summer and come fall the colors of appreciation may shine brighter than before. Rinse and repeat. Thank you for reading. And thank you for all the little things that go unnoticed. Thank you, Lucid Family. We Love You!
Cover photo by Eric Allen