6 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude
Updated: Jan 24
It’s been said that gratitude is the world’s most powerful drug. But, what is gratitude exactly? Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast defines it as “the feeling of appreciation that comes when you recognize that something is valuable to you, which has nothing to do with its monetary worth.” If you think about it, most people associate gratitude with merely saying ‘thank you.' But, it actually extends beyond just giving your thanks. Instead, it’s about developing more trust in life and receiving every moment as a gift. As Jay Shetty says, you don’t need to label the situation as good or bad. You don’t need to judge the moment because as soon as you label something as bad, your mind starts to believe it. Instead, it’s better to be grateful for everything that happens in your life as they’re happening for you to become the best version of yourself.
When you start receiving every moment in life as a gift, you release yourself from a poverty mentality. This mentality keeps you focused on your lack of, like, how much work you have, the things you don’t have, your partner’s problems, the people you don’t like, or how unfair life is. And as Robin Sharma says, “What you focus on grows.” So, if you continually focus on your lack, problems, and negative feelings, you’ll attract more of those things into your life. Likewise, suppose you constantly feel appreciative of the things you do have in your life, like how lucky you are to have a job, have a roof over your head, have meaningful and fulfilling relationships, and be alive and healthy. In that case, you’ll naturally attract more abundance and more things to be grateful for.
Here are six ways you can start cultivating more gratitude in your life.
Gratitude journaling has many benefits, including helping you sleep better, promoting happiness, increasing alertness, lowering anxiety, and reducing intrusive thoughts. When you start your day with gratitude journaling, you begin the day on a positive note which will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of your day. Likewise, when you end your day with gratitude journaling, you end the day on a positive note, which is crucial because, as Jay Shetty says, the emotion you fall asleep with is likely the emotion you'll wake up with in the morning. As gratitude journaling becomes a habit, you'll eventually train your mind to see the positive in every situation.
In general, journaling also helps you develop more self-awareness. When you have a negative thought or complaint, instead of saying it aloud to someone and passing on that negativity, please write it down. Research shows that when you write the negative thought or complaint down, it becomes more productive, and you increase your self-awareness as it provides an opportunity for self-reflection. You notice your flaws, fears, triggers, negative thinking patterns, self-limiting thoughts, and illogical reasoning, paving the way for you to generate more kindness, compassion and tolerance for others.
Now, let's move on to the technical aspects of journaling. There isn't a right or wrong way to journal. You can write in complete sentences or point form notes. You can be as brief or as elaborate as you would like. It's okay to make grammar mistakes. It's okay if your writing is messy. It's okay if you jump from topic to topic. The point is to let your thoughts flow. Write whatever goes to your mind.
Some journaling prompts that you can write about are:
What are three things that you are grateful for? Answer this question in the morning and at night.
What are you most afraid of?
What are you most proud of about yourself?
What are your strengths, values, and goals?
What character traits and habits do you want to develop, get rid of?
2. Express Gratitude Toward Others
Besides strengthening relationships, expressing gratitude toward your loved ones also promotes happiness, boosts cardiovascular health, and improves mental well-being. You can show appreciation for your spouse, family, and friends in various ways. My preferred method is through handwritten notes, as it is more impactful than a verbal 'thank you.' You can write a letter to someone you are grateful for, detailing the qualities and values that you appreciate about the person, an act of service that they performed for you, or just about how blessed you are to have them in your life. You can also show appreciation by giving them a call to see how they're doing, sending them a meme or a quote you found on social media that reminds you of them, making them breakfast or taking them out for coffee. There are many ways you can express your gratitude toward others.
3. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences
As the axiom goes, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. It's easy to get caught up in other people's words, opinions, and comments. But remember, every interaction you have with another and yourself is taking its toll on you. Conversations full of negativity and complaints gradually form your temporary moods and permanent character. In other words, if you always associate with people who are religiously cynical and complain, then you will eventually adopt those qualities as well.
It's also essential for you to reflect on making sure that you're not negatively influencing someone else. You may be the harmful and toxic person in the relationship at some point in your life. Consistent self-reflection and self-awareness are so critical. Ask yourself, "Am I toxic? Am I contributing to the toxicity?" The best way to attract people with qualities like gratefulness, kindness and compassion into your life is to develop them yourself.
Jay Shetty says true fulfillment stems from creating value and being of service to others – and I firmly believe this as well. Denzel Washington explained it perfectly as he says, “The most selfish thing you can do in this world is to help someone else, because the gratification, the goodness that comes to you, the good feeling, the good feeling from helping others – nothing is better than that. Not jewelry, not the big house, not the cars, it’s the joy. That’s where the joy is – in helping others. That’s where the success is.” When you help others, you expose yourself to their suffering. This, in turn, minimizes your pain because it broadens your perspective by allowing you to appreciate what you do have, and so you’re immediately filled with gratitude. You can be of service to others by picking a cause you're passionate about and joining a local group or organization supporting it.
5. Living Mindfully
Mindful living is about being conscious and aware of the present experience, the purpose of all spiritual teachings. Lao Tzu has been credited for saying, "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." By being conscious of the present moment, you become more appreciative of the little things you often ignore or take for granted. You can inject more mindfulness into any aspect of your life. It merely means channelling all of your attention to whatever you're doing, whether it's exercising, cleaning, cooking, eating or showering. For instance, when eating, pay attention to the ingredients, texture, and flavours while you're chewing.
Detaching from your ego encourages gratitude. Jay Shetty says that when you let go of ownership of your knowledge, skills, and success, you realize that you are not "self-made" because your success was built upon others' help, including your parents, teachers, bosses, courses or books. This realization causes you to feel more grateful and humble, and hopefully, it inspires you to pass on what you’ve learned to others.
So, let’s all start cultivating gratitude to create communities that exude kindness and compassion.