9 Ways to Expand the Latitude of Your Gratitude

Cup of coffee and pen with note about gratitude

What is Gratitude

Gratitude. What exactly is gratitude? It’s that thing that is so clear when you experience it and yet a bit elusive to pin down with words. It holds a certain je ne se quai if you will.

Gratitude is thankfulness on caffeine. It goes beyond simply saying “thank you” when someone does something kind for you. It’s that thing that makes you really feel and express and is really quite pure and simple.

Why is Gratitude Important

To put it most simply, gratitude generates happiness and as it is said, what goes around, comes around. And, you want to be happy, right?

Life is hard. No matter who you are and how on top of things you may be, there will be things to get you down, and it can be difficult to stay positive. But, when we turn toward gratitude and take the time to focus on what we have to be grateful for, it’s a whole lot easier to not slide down the rabbit hole of doom.

If you can find one thing you’re thankful for, another will show itself and then another and another. And, so it goes until the positive vibes radiate once again and finding the bright side of things isn’t so difficult. It’s not a vicious cycle, it’s a happiness cycle. 

Practicing gratitude is simple and yet the simplest of things can become the most difficult of things.

In this blog post, I’ll share some easy ways to help you get on the road to positivity and joy.

Perception is the key to happiness


Focus on what you can control in life, which honestly isn’t a whole lot. There’s so much left up to things beyond your control. Traffic, disease, weather, the list of things you can do little to nothing about goes on and on and on, where the list of things you can take the reins of is very very short. In fact, it’s so short you can’t even really call it a list, but is incredibly powerful. And that, my friends, is YOU.

The one thing you can do something about is how you react to all that comes your way. You have 100% control of yourself.  You may not be able to immediately change your situation, but you can immediately change your outlook. 

When we grab on to gratitude rather than the negative side of a situation, everything becomes easier. Nothing seems as bad. I can tell you from personal experience, since practicing gratitude, my life has grown exponentially in ways I didn’t see coming. The increase of joy in my life is almost astonishing.  

How to Practice Gratitude

Here are nine ways you can incorporate gratitude into your day.

Keep a journal

Journaling with coffee

In the hustle and bustle of balancing work and home, we often forget to stop and smell the roses. Each and every day we encounter beauty and goodness, but It’s way too easy to get caught up in our day and overlook these things. Sometimes we miss the finer, and sometimes even bigger, points that bring joy and appreciation, which is why I recommend keeping a gratitude journal.

Keeping a written account of what you are grateful for is a wonderful way to help you pay attention and recognize such moments. 

You may be thinking, “there’s going to be a lot of empty lines on those pages,” but I promise you, once you start, you’ll be surprised at how much you have to be grateful for. Nothing is too small or too big to be grateful for. List not only things you’re thankful for but your daily positive observations as well. 

Your husband put the lid down on the toilet. Your kids didn’t need to be prodded to get out of bed. You hit all the green lights on the way to work. The flowers up the street started to bloom. Someone held the door for you. You held your yoga pose longer than you thought you could. Your mom’s cancer scan came back clear. The fender bender you were in left no one injured. There was no one in line at the post office. You tied your shoes this morning without your back hurting. You got a good night’s sleep.  

When you’re having a rough moment or day or week, you can flip back through your journal and remind yourself of all there is to be grateful for

If the idea of a journal seems daunting and you’re feeling a bit intimidated about where to start, don’t stress. To learn more about journaling, read Beginner’s Guide: How to Journal.

Below is the gratitude journal that I used to get started.

Gratitude: A Day and Night Reflection Journal (90 Days) 

Meditate

Woman meditating

Daily meditation is a powerful practice that is centered on mindfulness, connecting your mind and body. 

Taking time out of the day to center yourself is invaluable. Finding 10 minutes whether in the morning,  evening, or at any point in your day is something you won’t regret. 

I have found setting aside meditation time every morning works best for me. Starting my day focusing on all that I’m thankful for sets a positive tone for my day. 

For more tips on how to kickstart your days, check out  90-Minute Morning Ritual for a Midlife Go-Getter.

Listen

Woman listening intently

We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time and talk 20% of the time. Believe it or not, listening is a very difficult skill. It’s more than just hearing words. It’s about absorbing the meaning of those words. Truly listening to someone requires your entire being, ears, mind, heart and soul.   

When you listen, it shows respect and gratitude. It’s an invaluable gift to the one you’re listening to. Next time you want to express gratitude, evoke the 80/20 rule.

Smile 

Woman smiling in hallway

Never underestimate the simplicity of a smile. A smile is one of those rare things in this world that is priceless and costs you nothing. When I see my kids smile, it warms my heart more than anything else in this world.

A smile isn’t only nice to receive, but also great to give. It turns out that when it comes to smiles, giving equals receiving. When you put a smile on your face, your body  releases some pretty great feel good hormones. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?    

Spread the love! Next time you walk by a stranger, co-worker, your local grocery store cashier, or a parent at your kid’s soccer game, smile at them. You never know how much such a simple gesture could mean to someone. And yourself.  

Spend time with people

Friends laughing after yoga

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love that for at least one day a year, I get to sit around a table with the ones I love to partake in lively conversation over a languorous meal. I love catching up with everyone and regaling old memories. You just can’t beat it in my book.

I wanted to find a way to experience that feeling more than once a year. I didn’t want to have to wait until that one Thursday in late November to connect with those I love. 

Easier said than done, you think?  Not so fast. Yes, life gets busy and we get caught up in our own stuff, but there’s time if you make time. 

I decided to make time. I’ve made it a monthly habit to call a friend or relative I haven’t spoken to for quite some time to catch up and see how they’re doing. It may not be Thanksgiving, but gratitude is still on the menu for these calls.   

Additionally, I’ve started to plan coffee breaks, outdoor activities (ie. walking, bicycling…) and lunches with those who live near me, but I don’t see or talk to often. Each time we  meet up, we always end with “geez this was so nice and long overdue. We must do it again soon.” Not once has there been regret. 

I encourage you to take the initiative to create time to call friends and family and spend time with them. It does a person good.

Write a note

Thank you note

In today’s digital age, it’s so rare to get a letter or note, albeit handwritten in the mail. And who doesn’t love to get personal mail that doesn’t fall under the category of junk or bill? I doubt there isn’t a single person who doesn’t feel a little skip in their pulse when they see a handwritten envelope or postcard addressed to them. 

Over the last few years I have received a few handwritten cards from co-workers and friends. They were all unexpected and much appreciated. Anything from a simple thank you for your help with this project, to a hey, I miss you goes miles more than an email or text of the same. 

Do not get me wrong, I’m not knocking a text or email. If that’s what you’ve got, that’s what you’ve got and there’s not a wrong way to show gratitude to and for someone. But, hey, if it comes in the snail mailbox rather than the inbox, it adds a little something extra.   

Friends, if you haven’t already made this part of your gratitude routine, I highly encourage you to start. It’s yet another wonderful way to put a smile on someone’s face. And, it’s guaranteed to make you feel good too. 

Give unexpected gifts

Woman surprising friend with gift

You know the saying “it’s the thought that counts.” Well, I bet you’re thinking about your friends and loved ones more than a couple times of gift giving holidays a year. Let them know! 

Giving an out-of-the-blue gift hits a little differently. You don’t have to break the bank to give a gift of love and appreciation. Whether a small gift certificate to their favorite coffee shop, a book you saw that you knew they would love, a great thrift store find you knew they’d be thrilled over, or those hand towels you saw at HomeGoods covered in roosters that you just know your rooster loving friend would be ga-ga over, you can’t go wrong with an “I was thinking of you” gift. It’s not about the cost, it’s about the fact that they were on your mind. 

Volunteer

People volunteering their time to build a home

Lending your time to help others is a fabulous way to give and receive gratitude. It’s one of the most selfless things you can do. Whether you give your time  to a local charity , church,  or helping a friend or family member move, it’s good for the soul. 

Any time I volunteer, I walk away smiling and feeling spiritually rewarded. Try to work it into your schedule to volunteer your time at least once a quarter. I’m sure you’ve got a fabulous planner to help remind you of these kind acts that contribute to your body of work

Donate

Donation box

Clothing is a bare necessity that unfortunately too many people do not have. I set aside time twice a year to go through my family’s clothes and donate what we no longer wear. My rule is if it hasn’t been worn in 2 years, it needs to go

In addition to clothes, if you’re in a financial situation to do so, make it a point to  regularly donate monetarily to charities and causes you believe in. By all means, contributing $50-$100 a month is awesome, but you’d be surprised at what a difference even $5-$10 a month makes. It all adds up. Do what you can. Setting up monthly auto payments has made this easy for me.   

These are a few ways that going beyond thank you and actually incorporating acts of gratitude as part of my daily routine has enriched my life both physically and mentally.  

These acts also contribute to the greater good of society as a whole. Gratitude is contagious.  Incorporating acts of gratitude in your daily routine, may inspire others to do the same – making the world a better place one smile at a time.  

I’d love to hear from you, what are some ways you show gratitude?

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