We all know the value of practicing gratitude, of how counting our blessings and taking time to appreciate the good in our lives can deepen our happiness and sense of connection to ourselves, each other and the world around us.
Yet there are times when we just don’t feel grateful, when bad moments or bad days, unexpected circumstances or a constant spin of negative news makes it hard to recall our good fortune.
We may try to fake our gratitude or talk ourselves into all the reasons we should be thankful, especially when compared to others who have it so much worse.
And yet, our efforts fall flat.
Here are some tips for resetting the heart and mind to feel more appreciative right where we are.
1) Focus on the little things.
It’s easy to feel grateful for the amazing moments that happen in our lives, or to think expressing our thanks is all about appreciating the big things: our job, our family, our home. But often it’s in noticing the little things — the butterfly that glides across our path, the warmth seeping into our fingers from a cup of tea, the simple thinking-of-you text from our partner — that makes gratitude a habit.
2) Shake it up.
Of course, the very nature of a gratitude practice means making it a routine part of our days. But every routine needs shaking up now and then! Notice new things to be grateful for every day. Think beyond what’s right in front of you or what’s become your go-to gratitude list to stay engaged with your practice.
3) Get specific.
Instead of thinking how grateful you are for your family every day, think about: What did your partner do that you really appreciated? How did your son or daughter brighten up your day? What qualities do you most appreciate in the people you love? Getting specific with the details not only taps into a deeper state of gratitude, it keeps you in that space of appreciation for longer.
4) Be realistic.
Consider what you can do and when. This will help you plan for possible obstacles. For instance, if you decide to keep a daily gratitude journal but know you’re too tired at night to focus, think about a morning gratitude practice. If you tend to be forgetful, turn to cues to remind you: set an alarm for a gratitude break; decide you’ll focus on what you appreciate about someone whenever you interact with them; wear a charm bracelet with one or a series of charms reminding you of what’s meaningful to you.
5) Be people-oriented.
Dr. Robert Emmons, widely considered the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, suggests focusing our gratitude on people, rather than circumstances or material items. This enhances the benefits of gratitude, which include greater resilience and creativity and stronger social relationships. Think of directly expressing your thanks to someone verbally or in writing. You may even make it a habit to share what you’re grateful for each day with someone you love.
6) Slow down.
If we’re running around on auto-pilot or trying to keep up with an ever-growing to-do list, we won’t have time to notice the many things we have to be grateful for — to experience a sense of wonder as we savor the little moments every day that give us reasons to be thankful.
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