Developing a Daily Gratitude Practice Can Change Not Just Your Life, But the Lives of Others

What do we mean by gratitude?

Gratitude sounds like such a simple concept doesn’t it?  The Cambridge Dictionary definition is ‘the feeling or quality of being grateful’.  Or in other words, thankful.  We feel gratitude not only as an emotional state but also express it to others.  Apparently, the origins of this word are from the Latin word ‘gratus’ which means pleasing or thankful.  We often think about gratitude as the simple act of saying thank you to another person, for example when they have been of assistance to us.  But it goes much deeper than this.


Why is this important?

Gratitude essentially helps us to recognise the good in our life.  Appreciation of what is good can be beneficial for quite obvious reasons.  Firstly, gratitude is a positive emotion, therefore it is usually pleasant to experience.  When we are going through a dark time in our lives our minds tend to focus on all the things which are going wrong.  This is called the ‘negative filter’.  Practising gratitude is not about replacing these negative thoughts or pushing them away, but more a question of readdressing the balance.


What if I have nothing to be grateful for?

Even in some of the most difficult times in our lives, there are always things we can find to be grateful for.  I can imagine that some of you will be looking at this article shouting at the screen ‘what utter rubbish’!  But I only need to refer to autobiographies of people who have endured some of the most harrowing circumstances life could throw at them, and you will find that gratitude was one of the core things which helped them through.  I can highly recommend the autobiographies of Nelson Mandella’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ and ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor E Frankl.  I assure you that things you can be grateful for are always there, we just need to look harder some days.  The more practice you have of this, the easier it gets.

Let me also be clear that this is a concept used to enhance your quality of life.  Not to invalidate, minimise or distract you from any pain you are currently going through.  Learning to practice gratitude, although understandably more difficult during your darker times, is not impossible, and could even help lighten the load somewhat.


What kind of things could I be grateful for?

I really find that this varies widely.  It can be specific things that people have done or said, things achieved, events that have happened, a treasured item or purchase, or really simple and basic things that many of us take for granted.  I will include a small list below of some of the things I have been grateful for this week as examples:

  • Walks with my dog
  • Seeing my kids progress in something
  • The smell of someone else cooking a delicious dinner
  • Lessons I am learning in business and in life
  • Catching up with a friend
  • Seeing progress in my clients
  • To have peace to read my book
  • A fresh cup of coffee
  • The sun shining and the feel of the wind on my face
  • A hug with my partner
  • Compliments I received

On harder days I make sure to remind myself of being grateful for some of the things that I often take for granted.  When we are so used to having certain things in our life we tend to accidentally devalue them.  I count myself fortunate that; I am alive, have my health and am able-bodied with full use of all my senses, have food in my cupboards, heat in my home, access to water, a comfy bed to sleep in, money in my bank, etc.


How do I start a gratitude practice?

One of my biggest suggestions to clients is to start a gratitude journal.  It doesn’t have to be a journal necessarily, but find a way to spend at least a little time every day reflecting on as many things as you can which make you grateful that day.  Doing it last thing at night, before you go to bed can be a nice way to end your day.  To fall asleep with gratitude still fresh in your mind; what a wonderful way to drift off into slumber.  Keep pen and paper next to your bed so that it is easy to remember to do this exercise each night.  In my experience, the biggest reason why people do not manage to maintain a daily practice is simply forgetfulness.  So find ways to make it easy for you to remember.

Expressing your gratitude more is also another way of enhancing your gratitude practice.  For example, you could express your gratitude to at least one person each day.  By rule of reciprocity this also suggests that, although this isn’t necessarily your motivation, people inevitably start to fire some gratitude right back at you.  It can start small from just saying ‘thank you’ or ‘I really appreciate you saying or doing that’.  You could then take it even further and express to others how much they mean to you, all the things you appreciate about them, and what you love about them.  Even with people whom you may have a more difficult relationship with, you could attempt to view them through the eyes of gratitude and ask yourself ‘they are not all bad, what are the things I appreciate about them?’.

Above all, think about how wonderful it can feel to have deep gratitude directed at you.  Yes, it can be a bit uncomfortable or even embarrassing in the moment.  Some may even appear to brush it off entirely, but by expressing your gratitude you have planted a beautiful seed in that person which will start to flourish.  This can go on to have a positive ripple effect that is beyond belief.  Such a simple daily practice can indeed have a huge impact.  Why not try it?


“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things”
Robert Brault