Thanksgiving is a time to pause and appreciate the good things we have in life. However, practicing gratitude all year long can raise your levels of happiness and contentment.
Studies have shown that among the benefits of being in a more grateful attitude are an increase in positive emotions, feeling more alive, sleeping better, expressing yourself with heightened compassion and kindness, and having a stronger immune system. All this goodness for just a change in the way you perceive the world.
To gain that shift in perspective, here are twenty-five ways you can practice gratitude.
Write down at least three things you are grateful for at the end of the day. Be very specific. Instead of writing ‘I am grateful for my family’, write something like ‘I am grateful for the hug my child gave me when I said she could spend the night with her friend.’ or ‘ I am grateful that my mother taught me recipes that I can cook for my family and pass down to my children.’
Tailor this however it works best with you. Too tired at night to write? Then do it in the morning. Or if you feel journaling is too much, make a gratitude jar. Whenever you feel appreciation or gratitude for something, you jot it down on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, read all your slips.
Tell Someone You Love Them
Don’t just reserve this for your partner or your children. Tell your friends and your parents and your extended family.
Notice Nature and Beauty
Strive to spend more time out in nature, but even in a city, you can begin by taking in every garden, flower, tree or animal you come across.
Also, begin looking for beauty in everything. Beauty can be found in the architecture of a building, a painting, a color, a sound or a person.
Be there for your friends when you need them and even when they don’t. Set up times to go have lunch together or go to a movie. Find people with common interests and cultivate those connections into solid friendships.
Even when you feel like absolute shit, if you put a smile on your face and leave it there for a while, eventually your brain will send signals to the rest of your body that you are happy. And if you genuinely find something funny or it brings you joy, for fuck’s sake, don’t repress expressing that, go ahead and smile or laugh.
Watch Inspiring Videos
My go to when I need to pull myself out of a funk is to watch Golden Buzzer moments on America’s Got Talent or any versions of this show in other countries. Warm fuzzies can also be found in any video that catches people doing something kind or soldiers coming home and surprising their families.
Acts of Kindness
It doesn’t cost anything to be kind, so be as excessive as you want. Offer to babysit a single mother’s kid(s) for an afternoon, bake a treat for the entire office to enjoy, hold the door open for someone, pick up trash, or return a buggy to the store. It doesn’t matter how small or big the act, you will instantly feel better.
Avoid Negative Media
I realize these days this may mean avoiding it all together. That’s okay. Give yourself an entire day and don’t look at social media or the news. Pulling yourself away from all that will definitely allow you to focus on more pleasant things.
Finding an organization where you can regularly volunteer and do something to help out either others or animals ups the odds of keeping you in a steady state of being grateful for what you have.
Don’t Gossip or Speak Badly of Others
Does this ever make you feel better? I doubt it. Focus on the good qualities of others. If you happen to know a real jackass, then challenge yourself to find something you like. Even If it takes a long time, that’s time you weren’t focusing on their faults.
Spend Quality Time with Children or Partners
Make time just to hang out and appreciate those closest to you. Build a fort in the living room on a Tuesday night for no reason other than the enjoyment your kids will have that you are actually playing with them. Convince your partner to take a day off work with you and go wander around a museum. Just take a break from regular routines and do something special.
Pass a lady that has on a gorgeous pair of shoes? Tell her. Impressed by a child behaving well? Tell them and their parents. Read a blog post that made you smile (wink, wink)? Compliment the writer.
Send a Card or Write a Note
Everyone likes an unexpected surprise. Send a card to someone out of the blue or leave a kind note for a neighbor, the mailman or a co-worker.
Look for the Positive in Every Situation
The other morning I spilled 32 ounces of lemon water all over the kitchen counter and floor when I was in a hurry to get out the door to work. At first I was like ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’, but then I remembered to try to look for a positive and I laughed when I landed on, ‘Well, I don’t need to clean the kitchen for a few days after I wipe it up”. I could have let it ruin my day, instead it just made a funny anecdote to tell my coworkers.
Some situations are harder than others, but trust me, there is always a positive. No matter how small or insignificant it may be, focusing on it will take power away from the negative.
Give Recognition for a Job Well Done
Coworker nail a presentation? Cashier have an upbeat and friendly attitude? Customer service rep above and beyond to assist you? Let them and their manager know!
Instead of Complaining Offer Solutions
Is there a particular process at work that just isn’t very efficient or is there a chore that makes you want to throw up your hands in defeat? When you feel like complaining, instead focus on trying to come up with a way to make it better. Complaining doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t even make you feel better. Put that intelligent mind to work and come up with a way to eliminate the frustration.
Pay It Forward
Did someone do something nice for you? Did they pay for lunch or help you with a project or hold the door open for you or teach you a new skill? Get into a habit of whenever this happens, you pass it on by doing something for someone else.
Making a regular habit of taking even just five minutes of your day to sit quietly or follow a guided meditation, will calm you and help you to remain calm when faced with any issues or obstacles during your day.
When your mind starts to ruminate on difficulties or stressful situations in your life, past or future, pull yourself back to the present by focusing on things in your immediate area. Look around, notice buildings you are driving past or identify the things laying on your desk or focus on the sensations surrounding the chore you are doing.
Start Thanking People for the Little Things
Did your child do their chores without you having to remind them? Partner pick up something for you on the way home? Boss let you go ten minutes early? Did the cleaning crew at work do a particularly good job on something? Thanking people for their efforts, no matter how small, makes them feel good and encourages them to continue doing things well.
Reach Out to Those That May Be Lonely
Life is hard. Elderly people especially suffer from loneliness, so start noticing those that don’t seem to get much company and pay them a little visit once in a while to brighten their day. Do you see a child playing alone all the time? Influence other children to include them or take some time to play a little game with them. Be grateful for the friends and family you have and start noticing and including those that may not have anyone.
Embrace Challenges as Opportunities to Grow
When you find a situation or task particularly difficult and you are struggling, look at it as an opportunity to grow. Doesn’t matter how well you have your shit together, there will always be setbacks and obstacles. If you look at each one as an opportunity to learn something, you’ll be grateful even when things are rough.
Be Open to Learning New Things
If you have to learn a new software at work or your bank introduces a new way to process a transaction or a restaurant replaces your favorite item on the menu, don’t let it overwhelm you. Reframe your annoyance into excitement. You are excited to learn the new software, you are excited the bank is keeping up with new technology, you are excited that you get to try something new to eat.
Instead of ranting on social media, resolve to post positive and encouraging things. Share those cute animal posts and positive memes. Talk about things that make you happy. If you really can’t think of anything positive, at least make your rant funny.
Do More Things That Make You Happy
Speaking of those things that make you happy…work more of them into your schedule. If you enjoy knitting, reading, watching sappy movies, singing, dancing, making things or baking, whatever it may be, do it more.
Even though life is full of struggles and strife, there is still plenty that is good. Focus on that!