Happiness is never too far from where you can find gratitude. Luckily, there’s always something to be thankful for in our lives. The thing is, it’s not always easy to find something to appreciate and be grateful about. On bad days when all we can seem to focus on is everything that’s going wrong or everything lacking in our lives, gratitude may seem so elusive that we start questioning if there’s even a reason for us to be happy.
Well, there’s no denying that maintaining a positive outlook in life is not always easy, especially with all the troubling things happening in our world today. But that’s exactly why it’s important that we consciously practice gratitude and appreciation in our personal lives. Experiencing gratitude helps us relish positive experiences and leaves a lasting feeling of joy — a rare blessing that makes our daily struggles a lot more manageable.
Now here are some simple ways that can help you to start practicing gratitude and appreciation every day:
1. Start and end your days counting your blessings
If the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning is the multitude of things you have to accomplish, you might find it hard to feel optimistic and grateful. So before you officially start the day, take a few minutes to reflect and think about all the blessings you have that you can be thankful for. This will set a great outlook for the rest of your day and will leave you in a rather appreciative mood all throughout.
At the end of each day, you have to do the same regardless of whether you had a good day or a bad one. Think of anything that made you smile or made you feel excited for that day, even if it’s as simple as the colours of the sunset. Retire to bed with these as your last thoughts for the day. Counting our blessings always, always leads us back to how much we already have in our lives, ‘in spite of’- it’s a sure way to get us on the way loving our lives, regardless of where we are in it.
2. Appreciate the small things
The gift of family. A random compliment that uplifts your mood. A colleague who responded promptly to your urgent question. These are just a few examples of small things that deserve our appreciation, no matter how small they may seem to be. Now, instead of simply internalizing your gratitude for these little things, try to express and verbalize your appreciation by directly thanking the person or people who gave you something to be thankful about. Thank your family and friends for listening to your random musings. Thank the neighbor who complimented your new hairstyle. Thank the colleague who always makes things easier for the team. Gratitude is best practiced by expressing it freely and letting the positive vibes spread all around.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
What if there’s no specific person you can thank for something good that happened to you? Well, you can simply write it down in your gratitude journal. Aside from verbalizing your gratitude or making mental notes of things that made you feel happy, writing them down on a piece of paper will also help you remember them. This will help you get attuned to the kind of things that give you joy. Knowing your top sources of happiness can help you take care of yourself emotionally during bad days. Just crack your gratitude journal open during such bad days and you can gain a better perspective by reminding you of things that make you happy.
Have you been feeling helpless and stuck recently? This article might help you gain a new perspective by teaching you how to be grateful even for the littlest things.
4. Be present in your own life
We miss a lot when we don’t pay attention in our own lives. Have you ever experienced smiling or trying to strike up a conversation with someone who didn’t even notice you there because they had their face buried in their phone or iPad? Now imagine how much you’re missing when you’re not present to experience your life to the fullest. As an exercise, try to notice the world around you every chance you get. Be cognizant of little things such as the night sky as seen from your bedroom window, or the way the smell of your neighbor’s cooking reminds you of the home-cooked meals your parents used to send you off to school with. Take in the world around you with renewed zest and appreciation, and you will realize there are tons of things you can be thankful for –you simply have to pay attention.
5. Learn how to take a compliment
How many genuine compliments do you think you’ve brushed off because you didn’t think the person saying it was sincere? You can’t properly express your gratitude for such positive and kind words unless you stop undermining the compliments or downplaying how much you do deserve the praise. The next time you receive a kind word from someone, try to fight your initial instinct of downplaying it and instead accept the compliment with grace and gratitude. Do this enough times and it will become a habit and simply become a part of how you practice gratitude and appreciation every day.
6. Find the silver lining in everything
It might not always be readily apparent, but there’s always some good in the bad. At times, you would have to dig real deep, but trust that there’s always something to be thankful about even in the worst of times and circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, despite everything it has taken away from us, still has a few silver linings worth taking note of.
Think about how many families spent more time together the past year than any other year in their lives. Think about how happy your dog must feel every morning when you don’t have to leave for work or school. Think about all the new skills or gentle hobbies you’ve acquired during this period of prolonged lockdown. All these things deserve appreciation. Without ever resorting to toxic positivity, you can always find a silver lining to just about anything.
7. Never refuse an opportunity to grow
When it really feels impossible to find things to be grateful for, it might be a sign that you have to expand your horizons. If your usual sources of happiness are no longer cutting it for you, then it’s time to consider moving forward in life. For a change of pace, you may consider switching jobs or taking on a new passion project — anything that will get your energy flowing with a renewed excitement about life.
Maybe the reason you’re feeling so stuck with no happiness in sight is your own refusal to take a step in a different direction. If none of the tips mentioned in this article work for you, then you might have outgrown the reality you’re living in now. Explore new relationships and find another place in the world where gratitude and happiness can be found.
8. Reflect on how far you’ve come
It’s easy to feel like you’re stagnating when you fail to account for where you started vis-a-vis where you are at present. You might feel like you’re getting nowhere since you’ve just been taking baby steps all this time, but every step, no matter how small, takes you closer and closer to where you want to be. This is where mindfulness comes into play. You have to be able to look back and appreciate how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come in terms of your life goals.
A good principle in practicing gratitude is never losing sight of how hard you prayed in the past for all the things you already have now. Only then will you gain enough perspective to appreciate everything that has happened to you so far. You might not even notice it, but it’s practically impossible not to feel thankful when you look back and realize all the baby steps actually took you someplace you never even thought you’d reach.
9. Appreciate yourself, too
While you thank other people for all the little things they do that make you happy, don’t forget to give yourself some kudos, too. Appreciate your own strength, tenacity, and resilience in surviving everything you have lived through so far. You are amazing just for making it this far. Don’t forget to thank yourself for getting up to face another day even on days when you really don’t feel like it. Treat yourself every now and then, and most importantly, be kind to yourself the same way you’ve been practicing kindness to everyone else.
10. Pay it forward
Finally, channel all the gratitude you’re feeling into paying it forward. There’s just no better way to spread happiness than to be someone else’s reason for smiling and being thankful. Being a blessing to others is a great way to start a chain of gratitude, appreciation, and joy, all of which will undoubtedly find its way back to you.
Consistently practicing gratitude is a life skill that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Like other acquired skills such as baking, lifting weights, or creating visual art, it’s something that needs to be honed, refined, and improved, until such time that it becomes second nature to you. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above will set you off on the right path towards a life filled with more gratitude than regret, more appreciation than discontent, and more happiness than tears.
Article by Bella Toledo, Edited by Li-ling Ooi