Gratitude is rewarding and may be contagious. That is the suggestion from a converging body of research exploring how positive emotions like gratitude and appreciation affect our hearts, our brains, and even those around us.
Giving thanks may be easier on the day we Americans set aside for it, but how do we keep that thankful feeling flowing? How do we maintain an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis, especially in the post-holiday haze and pre-Holiday craze of these longest winter nights upon us?
Here are five simple suggestions to flex your appreciation muscles. Once you get in the gratitude groove, you begin to become aware — gradually but inevitably — of the abundance that surrounds us at any given moment. You just might be amazed at how much there is to be grateful for. Try it.
1. The Tried & True Gratitude Journal
2. Make Someone Happy
Do (at least) one thing every day that shows another person — be it your life partner or the kid at the coffee shop — that you appreciate them.
“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.” ~ The Dalai Lama
3. Write a Thank You Note
And I mean the old-fashioned way. Handwritten. On a simple card or scrap of paper, it’s the message that matters. Tell someone how they made a difference to you. Find their address, put a stamp on it (yes, they still have those), and send it snail mail.
4. Find the Gratitude
Think about a difficult or challenging situation you are facing. Find something about it that you are thankful for. There’s always something — a lesson learned, a pattern of behavior revealed, even just the simple knowledge that the situation will pass, in due time.
5. Make It Your Mantra
People don’t say thank you nearly enough. Surprise your partner by thanking them for something they do all the time, like making the coffee. Thank the bus driver or the toll operator. Thank the sun for rising another day.
Here’s some inspiration for giving thanks from kirtan’s pop-mantra queen and dancing diva Donna De Lory, singing her beautiful ode to gratitude, Sanctuary, at Bhakti Fest Midwest last summer.