It’s just one of those days: you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. The coffee is cold. It’s raining and you forgot to bring an umbrella. Your car broke down or the train was late.
Whatever it is, you just know it’s not going to be your day.
But what if I told you that there’s one thing that could turn your day around, no matter how bleak your day looks?
If this sounds good to you, read on. This article is also for those who want to know ways for how to be more intentional with their thoughts, words, and actions, as well as those who are looking for a shift in mindset.
Here, we will talk about what gratitude is, why it’s important, and 10 ways on how to be more thankful every day.
What is gratitude?
Experiencing this emotion brings about numerous benefits for both mental and physical health.
On a greater scale, to be more thankful every day can shape how you view the world and interact with people around you in vastly different ways than you did before.
Why is being thankful – expressing gratitude – important?
University of California, Davis professor and scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, revealed that practicing gratitude resulted in physical, psychological, and social benefits:
- Higher immunity
- Reduced aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Higher motivation to exercise and take care of health
- Longer and better quality of sleep
On the psychological front, to be more thankful every day can result in:
- More positive emotions
- Higher alertness, liveliness, wakefulness
- More joy and pleasure
- Greater optimism and happiness
Finally, its social benefits include:
- Being more helpful, generous, and compassionate
- Being more forgiving
- Being more outgoing
- Feeling less lonely or isolated
Emmons explained that it is a social emotion, meaning that it makes us look at how others have supported us.
He dissected gratitude as having two parts: first is an affirmation of goodness, which recognizes that good things exist.
By no means does this mean that we live in a perfect world or that everything has to go our way all the time.
Rather, learning how to be more thankful every day compels us to look at life as a whole and see its goodness.
The second part is understanding where this goodness comes from; that is, somewhere outside of ourselves. We are made to realize that good things that happen to us is a product not just of our own efforts, but of others’ help, too.
What are 10 ways to be more thankful every day?
1) Keep a gratitude journal
One of the easiest ways for how to be more thankful every day is writing down at least three things you’re grateful for.
This is also a practice I learned from my seventh-grade math teacher. For someone whose least favorite subject was math, it was from her that I learned an important life lesson: to always have an “attitude of gratitude.”
2) Be on the lookout for silver linings
Whenever your day begins to show the signs of a stormy dark cloud, immediately think of the good things that came from the situation.
A very personal experience my family had was learning that my mother-in-law has cancer.
But the silver lining was that it was caught very early on. After several rounds of treatment, her oncologist said that we could look forward to “30 to 40 years of clear skies.”
3) Look how far you’ve come
Especially if you’ve come from hardship, one way for how to be more thankful every day is to reflect on how far you’ve come.
See how different your life used to be, how you now have the things you once only wished for, or how you’re now in a desirable situation work-wise, or relationship-wise.
4) Stop and smell the roses
This entails a bit of getting used to. Try as often as possible to be aware of times when you’re feeling happy.
Drop whatever you’re doing, tune in to how you feel, how your body feels, and what thoughts are in your head.
It will be easier to draw up those same feelings of gratitude when you want or need them.
5) Tweak how you speak
Another way to be more thankful every day is by showing gratitude through the words we speak.
Words have weight, and what we think and say are things we focus on. If you always talk about how bad a day you’ve had, how annoyed so-and-so made you, this will inevitably bring up feelings of irritation even more.
But if you shift your language to a more positive one, like “I’m so grateful I got through today”, then this gratitude will remain within you.
6) Use reminders to be more thankful every day
If you’re new to it, practicing gratitude can be a bit of a challenge.
Try pinning a sign or a Post-It on your mirror, your refrigerator, or your bedroom door, perhaps with the words: “Have you given thanks today?”
You can also use prompt cards for you to reflect on. You can buy these in any crafts bookstore or online.
Some examples of prompts from my own card deck include:
- “What memory never fails to make you laugh out loud?”
- “What’s something you love about your body?”
- “What support are you glad to have?”
Useful for journaling or simply reflecting on, these prompt cards are meant to open your mind to things you can be grateful for.
7) Express your gratitude
Saying the words “thank you” to people who have helped you or done you a favor is one of the most straightforward ways to be more thankful every day.
Even in the most seemingly random moments, when the mood hits you, thank your friends, your partner, your colleagues, or your parents.
Be specific about what you’re thanking them for, as it shows you really paid attention to the effort they gave to help you.
8) Give thanks to yourself
Although gratitude is often geared towards others, from time to time thank yourself.
It could be for something as simple as taking a shower, choosing to eat a healthy snack instead of a sugary one, drinking more water than soda, or choosing sleep over a Netflix binge.
9) Learn prayers of gratitude
If you’re the spiritual type, learning how say prayers of thanks can be a powerful act.
Through this, you express your gratitude to God, or whatever higher being you believe in, recognizing that all good comes from something greater than you.
10) Just keep smiling
Emmons suggests another way to be more thankful every day is by “going through the motions.”
Things like smiling, saying “thank you”, or else writing letters of gratitude to others, will give rise to the emotion itself.
What are the roadblocks to practicing gratitude?
The thing is, it’s not always easy to look on the bright side. The human brain tends to focus on and remember the negatives.
Likely this is due to evolution, where paying mind to dangerous or negative threats helped us survive.
That’s also what can make it difficult to be more thankful every day. Emmons also adds possible challenges in practicing thankfulness:
We adopt the mistaken thinking that when something good happens, it’s because of no one else but us, but bad things happen only because of others.
However, gratitude is realizing that good things also happen because others have helped us.
We are used to being in control.
Gratitude allows you to let go of things outside your control, accept what comes to you and be thankful for it.
We believe that there are certain things we deserve.
In our minds, it’s pretty simple: “I’m a good person, I do good things, so good things should happen to me.”
But that’s not always the case, is it?
Emmons shares a comment by an audience member at one of his talks on gratitude: “It’s a good thing we don’t get what we deserve. I’m grateful because I get far more than I deserve.”
As we’ve seen, there are many perks to being more thankful and just as many ways to practice it.
But apart from having effects on our overall wellbeing, Emmons shares why these occur.
Being more thankful enables us to live in the present
Positive life experiences excite us in the beginning because they are new, but later on, the novelty wears off and we tend taking them for granted.
Being more grateful lets us practice appreciating the value of a thing or a person, which then lets us get more benefits from it.
It prevents negative emotions
Envy, resentment, anger are just some of the feelings that can spoil our happiness.
When we focus on being thankful, we take away effort from feeling toxic emotions.
It helps you become more resistant to stressful events
In the face of life-changing incidents, suffering, or challenges, grateful people are able to bounce back more quickly.
It may be because grateful people see things through lens which they can look at negative events and help them avoid traumatic feelings and anxiety.
Cultivates greater self-worth
When you’re more thankful, you realize that you’re not alone; that other people care about you.
Conceivably, they do so because they see value in you.
Realizing and understanding that they see your worth, can help you see it and celebrate it in yourself as well.