Gratitude – Developing Habits That Make Every Day Thanksgiving
The Roman politician and writer Cicero once said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
Over 2000 years later, American author William Arthur Ward wrote, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
Even country music singer Willie Nelson has said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
For thousands of years, poets, authors, and songwriters have written about gratitude. More recently, psychologists and neurologists have studied the benefits of gratefulness. And since the beginning of time, our moms have reminded us to “say thank you.”
Everyone seems to agree it’s good for us to be grateful and polite of us to express it. So how do we become more grateful? Here are 5 habits that may help make us more feel more grateful.
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Sometimes we don’t feel grateful because we forget the things we have to be thankful for. Taking a couple minutes each day to write down three things we can be thankful for will help give us a grateful attitude.
2. Fill a Gratitude Jar. Similarly, you can keep a large gratitude or happiness jar. Each day, you can write something you’re thankful for or happy about on a slip of paper (plain paper will work, though, if you’re like us, pretty scrapbooking paper might make you feel even more thankful). Each week, you will watch the jar getting more and more full with your blessings. And at the end of the year, you can dump out the jar and read each of the pieces of paper to see all the good things that have happened throughout the year.
3. Use your senses — your five senses. Each day, try to stop at least once and truly experience your surroundings. Think about what you hear, smell, feel, see, and taste. Do you hear that bird outside your window? Or maybe it’s the way the sky is turning completely golden with the sunset. Or the taste of that first sip of your first peppermint hot cocoa of the season. Whatever it is, stop for 30 seconds and enjoy it. When we stop to enjoy the simple things, we feel more grateful.
4. Volunteer. When we get wrapped up in ourselves and all our own stuff, we tend to feel less happy and thankful in our lives. But when we take some time to serve other people and put them first, we usually get some perspective that makes us more grateful for the good in our lives. Sort clothes at a local thrift shop; serve a meal at a soup kitchen; donate coats to a school coat drive; make copies for teachers at the local elementary school; cheer on athletes at the Special Olympics; adopt a family to buy Christmas gifts for; pick up litter at a local park. There are almost as many different ways to volunteer as there are people willing to do it. Use whatever you’re good at or interested in to benefit other people. And you’ll probably find, like we have, that in giving, we really receive the benefit too.
5. Tell someone you appreciate them. It could be a formal thank-you note, but it doesn’t have to be. You could easily send a text message or forward along a thankful meme. Telling someone you’re thankful for them can actually make you feel more grateful. And expressing your appreciation might just make that person think about who they have to be thankful for, so you could cause a domino effect of gratitude.
Sometimes feeling thankful doesn’t come naturally. But we can make some choices and be intentional about forming a grateful attitude. And this new attitude can change every common day into Thanksgiving.