Gratitude is not just saying “Thanks!” Instead, it is first a profound feeling of thankfulness; only then comes the words expressing it.
It isn’t normal to wake up every day feeling grateful, we know.
But as the day progresses, with the right strategies, we could readily show our attitude of gratitude. Once we cultivate it as a part of our everyday lives, we get a cost-free tool to build ourselves immensely satisfying lives.
Gratitude is a selfless act, far removed from the snap reaction: “I owe you one.” Never say those four words to show your gratitude attitude. Read on to know why.
What Does It Mean To Have An Attitude of Gratitude
Having an attitude of gratitude means always having a deep appreciation for the good things we receive in our life. It means carrying around honest feelings of admiration for what we are given, and of exultation for how blessed our lives are by that gift.
The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Harvard Medical School says this about what gratitude means:
a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals–whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
An attitude of gratitude means making it a natural habit to feel and express gratitude and indebtedness in every part of your life. It applies to all the good things and events we experienced in the past, as well as in the present.
Some people may even go ahead to include other people’s bad behaviors, and unexpected, unpleasant events. They express their gratitude for these bad things as they hope these will ultimately have a fortunate turn in their lives.
What Is Attitude of Gratitude In Psychology
Positive psychologists say gratitude is deep appreciation (for someone or something) that we feel as well as express. It is an emotion more than plain thankfulness, and one that creates long-lasting positivity.
The positive psychology researchers have found gratitude to be strongly and consistently linked to greater levels of happiness. Having a sense of gratitude helps one feel more positive emotions, build better relationships, and stand stronger in the face of adversity.
Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania (read the shortest guide on Seligman’s Three Good Things Gratitude Exercise), Robert Emmons of the University of California, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, are three of the most famous researchers on gratitude.
According to Robert Emmons, a feeling of gratitude has two stages (2003):
- The first stage is about acknowledging that goodness exists in our life.
- The second stage is about recognizing that some part of this goodness came from outside ourselves.
Why Is An Attitude of Gratitude Important
Once said John F. Kennedy:
We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.
But why do we need to thank others? Why is it important for us to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness?
There are science-backed habits and rituals proven to make you happier when you include them in your everyday routine. Gratitude is one such powerful happiness-enhancing strategy.
Gratitude interventions are being empirically validated and are showing great promise in enhancing life satisfaction, decreasing depression and anxiety, coping with adversity, facilitating relationships, building civic and moral aspirations and behaviors, and promoting physiological benefits as well.— Vaughn Worthen and Richard Isakson
An attitude of gratitude makes us happier and healthier. It also inspires us to become better human beings. It helps us focus more on what we have in our lives instead of what we lack. And this helps us to stop the futile pursuit of happiness.
Research in positive psychology proves how gratitude practice works in improving our mental wellbeing and life-satisfaction.
- Researchers discovered that writing down Three Good Things per day for a week kept happiness rates high for up to six months.
- A study from the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Martin Seligman, found people who wrote and delivered a sincere Gratitude Letter genuinely felt better for a full month after.
Remember, although it may feel artificial at first, gratitude grows stronger with use and practice. With a little practice, we can gradually find time to cultivate this rich and beneficial emotion into our lives.
Watch Teri McKeever, coach of the 2012 US Olympic Women’s Swimming team, talk about the important role practicing gratitude has had in her life and the life of her athletes:
How To Have An Gratitude Attitude: 8 Proven Effective Strategies To Develop A Gratitude Mindset
But what should you do to feel more grateful? How could you enhance the practice of your gratitude exercise? How can you cultivate a growing sense of gratitude on your own?
There are scientifically proven actions you could take to become more grateful towards your life and relationships. All you have to do is to start with small rituals that turn into habits with time. These small incremental habits can then help you become more grateful in your daily life.
Gratitude interventions (that is, exercises to increase the emotion of gratitude) can be of two types:
- those that cultivate feelings of appreciation (as gratitude journal)
- those that strengthen relationships (as gratitude letter).
Here are 8 proven and practical ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude:
1. Start A Gratitude Journal
Try finding some things you are grateful for every day and write them down in a journal. Make it a habit to write down a few grateful thoughts about the gifts you received each day.
Starting a gratitude journal may seem odd, but it is very helpful and it helps you cultivate gratitude. Gratitude practiced daily increases the frequency of positive emotions. It also helps you focus on the positive parts of your life and relationships.
Think about a time during the day when you have 10 minutes free to focus on this task. Take a notebook and start writing things you are grateful for. You could do this in the morning and have a boost of positive emotions during the entire day.
You could also do it before going to sleep, finding the little things that happened during the day you are grateful for.
Start with small things in your life. They can be activities from your mundane routine. For example, you could be grateful your flowers have bloomed, or that you managed to fix something in your house. You could be grateful simply because the weather is sunny and you managed to sunbathe.
You could be grateful for the starry night sky, or because your toddler learned a few new words. You could be grateful for the people you have in your life and for their support.
Think about three to five things you are grateful for each day. Even though it may be difficult to find these things when you start. But the more you practice it, the easier it will be to identify those little things that make you a little happier every day.
Write in your gratitude journal every day, especially on those days when you are down and feel like nothing good happened. You will start to appreciate the ones around you more and take happiness from the little pleasures in life.
4 simple ideas to make your gratitude journal more beneficial:
- Go deep: write in details about a particular thing.
- Take time: don’t rush it; rather, savor the thing you write about.
- Get personal: focus more on persons than on things.
- Don’t overdo it: Prof Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found people who wrote in their journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness later, but those who wrote three times per week didn’t.
When practiced from time to time, gratitude journaling can boost your wellbeing, happiness, mood, health, and relationships.
Here is the Three Good Things Gratitude Exercise:
2. Write Letters of Gratitude
You may write letters to people to whom you are thankful and indebted to. You may also write a letter to say thanks for every good thing you have in your life, while paying more attention to what you already have than what you don’t.
Studies show gratitude expressed towards others can boost your happiness, which then leads to mood changes. When you will start your gratitude journal, you will find not only things you are grateful for but people too. They may be from the present or the past.
Have you ever expressed gratitude towards them? Well, most of us didn’t.
This is why you could start writing letters of gratitude. Think about those people who inspired and motivated you to pursue your dreams and goals. They could be the people in your life or public personalities, as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, Alain de Botton, or Stephen Hawking.
The best thing about this is you do not have to deliver those letters if you do not want to. It would be nice to make someone dear to you a pleasant surprise with your gratitude letter, but not all of us feel they could do this.
And that is fine; just tell yourself you would never judge yourself for writing it.
Writing a simple letter of gratitude to someone close to you will make you feel happier and less stressed. It is also a great way to stop taking the people in your life for granted, and instead, start to appreciate them more.
3. Pay Attention To What You Have
You may call it counting your blessings. That is, expressing thankfulness for all the good things you have in your life.
Being grateful may come with challenges for some of us. Instead of focusing on the things that make us happy, we may tend to focus on the ones that make us sad.
Our brains are used to noticing more of the bad things that happen every day in our life. So, it is difficult to teach it to be more grateful and positive. While this is not an impossible task, but a challenging one.
The most important piece of advice would be to pay attention to what you have, and not to what you lack.
For example, instead of focusing on the fact that one of your friends forgot your birthday, you could change your perspective. And instead, you could be grateful for all those times your friend had been beside you.
If you find it difficult, then try imagining your life without any particular thing around you — for example, your mobile, your home, your bed.
Practicing gratitude will help you see the challenges in your life not as drawbacks, but as opportunities to become better. And this applies to both your personal or professional life.
Gratitude will help you change your perspective on many events in your life and help you become more optimistic and positive.
Gratitude will help you improve your relationships with your close ones and your overall life experience.
You could try paying attention to your food while you’re eating, called Mindful Eating.
4. Practice Gratitude Meditation
Gratitude and meditation go hand in hand; each enhances the other.
Meditation helps you accept all your thoughts and it nurtures your inner self. It nurtures gratitude, self-acceptance and a less judgmental view on yourself and your environment.
Gratitude meditation is the practice of reflecting on the things in your lives you’re grateful for. It’s experiencing appreciation for a loved one, a beautiful day, or a scoop of ice-cream.
It can well be for things in your past — as being grateful for a quick recovery from an illness, or having weathered a tough time of your life and coming out strong.
You can be grateful for waking up in the morning, for the breath that gives you life, for your ability to interact with this beautiful world.
You could practice meditation in many forms; mindfulness is the most popular of them all. Mindfulness focused on gratitude can help you foster gratitude and nurture your inner self. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment.
The idea behind practicing mindfulness is that you learn to take notice of all your thoughts, positive or negative. You learn to notice and let them go without judgment. You learn to approach them with hope, acceptance, and grace.
You can find a great gratitude meditation script by Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield here.
And below is a guided morning meditation for gratitude practice:
5. Write A Thank-You Note
You can write a small and simple thank-you note expressing your joy and appreciation of a person’s positive effect on your life. You may also send a quick message to them from one of your smartphone messenger apps.
6. Thank Someone Mentally
Think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank that person.
7. Count Your Blessings
Be grateful for the goodness in your life and count your blessings for having it so. Pick a time every week to sit down and write out your blessings. here are three beautiful quotes to remember when it’s time to count your blessings:
When I count my blessings, I count you twice. – Unknown
Let me always count my blessings. To be thankful for my family and friends. To be thankful for the simple things that life has to offer. – Catherine Pulsifer
Everyone who is alive can find something to be grateful for if they look for it. If you are among the few that can’t find anything, start with the fact that you are ALIVE and continue from there. Counting ones blessings is a barometer of mental health. – Gudjon Bergmann
8. Say Your Prayers
People who are religious and/or spiritual can use prayer to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Even if you are an atheist, you may craft a personal gratitude prayer, as a secular grace (see below), and say it often.
To those who are secular and atheist, here’s a gratitude prayer for them:
As we eat, let us turn our minds to every individual we know, and wish them plenty, love and comfort on this day and every day. As we sit together, let us turn our minds to those we do not know, and wish them plenty, love and comfort on this and every day. As we celebrate, let us turn our minds and hearts to love, always love, of everyone on this world. Finally, let us turn our minds and hearts onto ourselves, make our wishes into action: sharing love and comfort whenever we can, with whomever we can, wherever we may be, and be thankful for the opportunities to give, love and comfort. In this way, we give thanks and are thankful in return.— A Secular Grace For Thanksgiving by Kris Punke
The 30 Day Gratitude Challenge
The following 30-day gratitude challenge comes from Deborah Jepsen at Melbourne Child Psychology:
(We) encourage you to give the following exercises a try for 30 days and see what effect it has on your own life:
- Write down three things each day for which you are thankful. These should be specific, not general. For example, “I am grateful for the way my toddler likes to hug me.” (Rather than, “I am thankful for my kids” … or my job or my house, etc.)
- Write down one thing each day you could do to improve your life. Something small is fine. For example, “I am going to clean the windows so they are crystal clear and I can enjoy the view better.” (You don’t have to do the things you write down.)
- Once per week for 10 minutes write about your ideal life in detail. Write as if it is already happening and real, not just wishful or hopeful. For example, “I am enjoying a walk along a beautiful tropical beach with clear white sand on a balmy evening with palm trees gently swaying in the light breeze,” not “I wish I could…”). Stop after 10 mins even if unfinished and pick it up next week or write on another aspect of your ideal life.
The key with the first exercise is to express genuine gratitude and appreciation for specific things you already have in your life and not to think like a victim who ‘deserves’ more or who wishes they had more of something.
And the positive effect is multiplied when you share the gratitude with others – especially family – but also friends, colleagues, clients and others.
Reading these insightful quotes from a diverse range of personalities will further help you grow your gratitude-attitude:
1. Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.— Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor Psychology at the University of California
2. Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.— Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism
3. I believe that gratitude is the best approach to life. When life is going well, it allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. When life is going badly, it provides a perspective by which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary experiences. And this is what grateful people do. They have learned to transform adversity into opportunity no matter what happens, to see existence itself as a gift.— Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis
4. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.― Melody Beattie, Author of books on codependent relationships
5. Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.— Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet
Here are our recommendations:
- The Little Book of Gratitude – Robert Emmons
- Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity – Robert Emmons
- Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier – Robert Emmons
- The 3 Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids: A Journal to Teach Children to Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness – Modern Kid Press
- Start With Gratitude: Daily Gratitude Journal | Positivity Diary for a Happier You in Just 5 Minutes a Day – Happy Books Hub
- Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude Journal – Pretty Simple Press
- Leading with Gratitude: Eight Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Business Results – Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick
To find out how grateful are you, based on a scale developed by Mitchel Adler and Nancy Fagley, and published by University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, take the quiz below:
• Gratitude Quiz •
Gratitude encourages us not only to appreciate our gifts but also to repay them or pay them forward.
Gratitude may motivate people to engage in positive behaviors that benefit their lives, the lives of the people around them, and the community at large. One thing is certain: by developing an attitude of feeling more grateful at each chance we get, we gift ourselves authentic happiness.
Finally, you could checkout some websites to guide you on adopting the gratitude attitude. Also, there are gratitude apps for the mobile devices. Just find the one that suits you the best, and get going.
• • •
Authors’ Bio: Sandip Roy is medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics. Leon Collier is a freelance writer from the UK, who loves to offer online assignment help about pop-culture, travel, self-development, marketing. He enjoys reading about wellbeing and happiness, and playing tabletop games.
Edited and reviewed by Dr Sandip Roy.
√ If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure.