It’s that time of year again: the time when we make resolutions. A few years back, I decided that rather than set specific, time-bound goals for myself each year, I would embrace an annual concept. One year it was slow living. Another year it was authenticity.
This year my concept is gratitude.
A lot has been written about the putative health benefits of gratitude: it’s great for making friends, reduces feelings of envy and even improves sleeping.
I buy that. I know that I always feel better when I’ve thanked someone for something they’ve done or when they’ve acknowledged me for a good deed.
Where I fall short is remembering to do this on a regular basis.
Here are 5 quick and easy ways to build gratitude into your daily life:
Start a Gratitude Journal
I’ve read about gratitude journals for ages, and I know some people swear by them. The concept is simple: at the end of the day, you set aside 15 minutes to write down everything you are thankful for in that day. It could be a person, your health, a specific event. It doesn’t matter.
The point is to focus on things that made you happy that day and to reflect on why they made you happy. I’ve never actually kept an actual journal per se – I have too many other journals in my life! – but the Headspace mindfulness app I use every morning is a great tool for cultivating gratitude.
Many of the series there ask you to begin your meditation by asking yourself who you are doing the meditation for – i.e., who will benefit from your personal reflection on anger/stress/fill-in-the-blank?
There is also a stream specifically designed to cultivate appreciation that also asks you to write things down.
Ask Your Spouse or Partner What You Can Do for Them Today
Be willing to ask your spouse or partner to help them in some way. This is an idea Richard Paul Evans shared in a now-viral blog post about how he saved his marriage.
He chose to put aside whatever anger and frustration he was feeling towards his wife and instead ask a simple question: “How can I make your life better?”
At first, he found himself cleaning the garage and attending to other household chores she wanted help with.
Over time, however, they both started asking each other this question each morning and their relationship improved immeasurably as they realized what they most wanted and needed to do was spend more time together.
Praise Your Adult Children
As a parent, it can be hard to resist the temptation to constantly coach your adult children. It’s very easy to notice what they’re doing wrong or not well enough, rather than what they do right. And before you know it, you’re treating them more like a project to fix, rather than as human beings.
If go to a parenting seminar on how to induce good behaviour from young children, they’ll tell you to heap praise on anything the child does right in very specific terms. This is also good advice if you’ve got adult children.
If you don’t have kids, perhaps you mentor or spend time with younger people in your family or in the office. Whatever the age, it is the specificity of the praise that matters.
Saying, “Thank you so much for remembering to call Aunt Martha; she’s alone now so phone calls from family members like you mean a lot to her… and to me,” is infinitely more likely to resonate than saying, “You need to call Aunt Martha. She’s all by herself. Don’t be so selfish.”
Give Your Colleague a ‘Thank You’ Card
When I left my job last summer, one of my colleagues gave me a card to thank me for all that she’d learned from me on the job as well as for my friendship. I was truly bowled over.
It’s completely natural to give someone a ‘goodbye’ card when they go but a ‘thank you’ card is that much more special because it is an easy, personal way to thank someone for the impact they had on you. Going forward, I’m going to do this whenever I say “Goodbye” to someone.
Recognize People on Social Media
If you’re on it, social media can be a great place to give a shout out to people – particularly strangers – and give them public recognition. Part of this is inherent in sharing someone else’s blog post and explaining why you liked it. But there are other, more specific ways of showing gratitude online.
On Twitter, for example, you can use the hashtag #followfriday (#FF) to list people whom you follow and think others ought to follow and why you followed them.
There are also specific hashtags like #tuesdayblogs where you share blog posts that champion someone else’s book. It’s a lovely way of expressing gratitude to strangers.
What other simple ways of expressing gratitude in your life have you found and how do they make you feel? Please share your findings below!