Giving Thanks – 5 Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  146 comments   :  39,420 Views

To mark this week of thanks and giving, today we launch a weeklong series on giving thanks.

My grandfather moved in with my parents a few years after I left for college and he lived with them for many years. Each time I would go home to visit, I looked forward to his optimistic answer to the familiar question, 'how are you'. He would jokingly answer with something like, "I'm able to sit up and take nourishment" or "I read the paper this morning and didn't see my name" followed by a little chuckle and a smile. What my grandfather was jokingly trying to get across was the simple message that he was alive and had his health, so he was fine. Looking back, I can see that it truly conveyed how he felt and he was grateful for each day he had.

Unfortunately, I am not as good as my grandfather was when it comes to expressing daily gratitude for the wonderful life I have. I have always been someone that cruises through the day checking things off the list and planning for all that will come tomorrow. I was very busy in my younger days playing three sports, participating in 4-H, playing in the school orchestra, singing in the church choir, participating in youth groups, working part-time and going to school – many times all at the same time. Planning and balancing seems to be the way of life for as far back as I can remember.

The lessons I learned as an athlete are equally engrained as well. During my many years of competitive sports, I learned two things that tend to work against living in the moment and having an attitude of gratitude and contentment. The first is the idea that if you are not getting better you are getting worse because nothing stays the same and the second is the way to improve is to continuously set and reach new goals. Those are important and help people dream big, reach high and accomplish much, but they offer little incentive to stop and smell the roses along the way. Breezing through today and missing all that it has to offer is a mistake I have made for far too long and wish to change for my future. Here are 5 ways to develop an attitude of gratitude for today and all that it provides. I hope you will join me in the journey.

Keep a Gratitude Journal – It is easy to list all that didn't go our way each day but it can be just as easy to list what did. Keeping a journal that allows you to list 5 things daily that you are grateful for helps maintain a daily focus on all that is good in your life. Entering a quick entry before bed provides an opportunity to end the day on a positive note no matter what challenges you faced along the way. Focusing daily on all that you have and did that was right, good, positive and encouraging keeps the spotlight on the benefits of your goals but also on seeing the good in each day and each person in your life as well.

Use your abilities to help others - Whether you have been a Boy Scout or not, we can all commit to help other people at all times. Each of us has a unique set of gifts and talents that someone else could benefit from when we use them to help. There are many ways you can be helpful and use your abilities in a formal way. Perhaps you have a larger amount of time to give and could get involved in a longer term commitment such as helping build homes with your local Habitat for Humanity or mentoring a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters. However, if you don't have that kind of time to commit, there are plenty of small things that can make a big difference in your life as well as the life of someone else. I'm sure there is someone in your neighborhood or community that needs some help raking leaves this fall or someone that could use a hand hauling groceries to their car. I'm sure if you think about what you enjoy doing and what your abilities are, you can think of simple ways to make a difference in the life of someone else by taking a little time to help and as you do, be sure to be grateful for the ability and health to do it.

Give up negative self-talk – Self-talk is the dialogue that we have in our heads as we think and process about situations we encounter throughout our day. Sometimes that self-talk even comes out in how we talk with others. It can make you come off looking conceded if you are a teenage girl that goes around telling everyone that you know you look good. However, for most of us, especially if there are things about ourselves or our day that we don't like, the self deprecating things come out that others would never think if we didn't say them out loud. Comments such as "I know I look horrible today, I knew I shouldn't wear this outfit," or "I just shouldn't talk because I know I sound stupid." Whether you say negative things aloud or just think them doesn't matter as much as the fact that you are reinforcing negative thoughts and ideas about yourself. You can change this pattern but you have to realize you are doing it and make a conscious choice to stop beating yourself up.

Focus less on the lives and activities of others - When we focus on the success of others, many times we diminish our own success. If our friend has lost 5 pounds and we have lost 3, we quickly diminish our success in favor of theirs. The good in someone else's life should not diminish the good in our own and won't unless we allow it to. It is only a small step from admiration to jealousy when we focus on the new job promotion our brother got or the new car our neighbor is now driving especially when we are comparing it to our own situation. By focusing less on others, we are better able to keep our eyes on our prize and the road we have already traveled including the rocks, hills, and valleys we have crossed along the way.

Say Thank You – We teach our children to say thank you but how good are we at it ourselves. Saying thank you, especially when someone serves you, can go a very long way to making your day better as well as the person you are thanking. The person that takes your order and brings your food is serving you and deserves your thanks. The person holding the door for you is serving you and deserves your thanks. Those seem easy enough to remember to offer thanks for but what about the person who serves you with encouragement or support. Do we remember to thank them for their help and assistance? Those two simple words can go a long way to showing your gratitude to the service of others and when given freely, can be very freeing as well.

I mentioned my grandfather and his attitude of gratitude and that is what I will remember most about him. He was grateful for the blessings he had in his life, big and small. In the last few months of his life, he required a great deal of day-to-day care from my parents. Each night as my father would help his father into bed for the night he would say "thank you, son" including the night before he died. For my grandfather, a man of few words, these three words held great meaning of gratitude for all my parents had done for him that day. For my father, hearing those words at the end of a long day of work and care brought a small smile to his face because he knew how much his care had meant. In return, my father could then go to bed listing honoring his father with care as something for which he was grateful. As the saying goes, what comes around goes around and that can apply to an attitude of gratitude. Each small act of kindness leads to the next and suddenly they are all connected. Just like in the Liberty Mutual Insurance commercials, doing something nice encourages others to do something nice and it continues to spread and suddenly the attitude of gratitude is everywhere.

Will you help spread an attitude of gratitude around your community of influence?

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  • 146
    YES....I am getting back on track and happy to have put my first week in.
    Thanks for the tips!!! - 1/16/2015   9:18:11 PM
  • 145
    I read another article about gratitude a few weeks ago and have been doing the gratitude journal. The part of this article about negative self talk was helpful. I've been doing that a lot lately. Putting myself down for thinking I may have said or done wrong things, that I don't look good etc. I am very grateful for all of the good things in my life but I need to start being kinder to myself. - 1/12/2015   8:27:22 AM
  • 144
    Enjoyed this article! Who doesn't fall off the path every now and then... the faster I pick myself up the better. - 1/6/2015   8:03:42 AM
    Thank you for sharing. - 11/26/2014   10:21:27 AM
  • 142
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful blog. - 11/23/2010   1:16:41 PM
    Gratitude takes some practice, but one really starts to pay attention to the details of daily life when accepting the personal challenge to think of five NEW things each day. In the beginning, it seems like the hardest thing in the world so start with not repeating anything for a week and then two weeks, etc. I've been doing this for years and it can be difficult sometimes and other times incredibly easy. So now, I've added looking for five good qualities people in my life have each day I interact with them. - 11/23/2010   11:56:55 AM
    So here's a question. What about the rest of us who like being a little curmudgeonly, who like being a bit self-deprecating and find those who are constantly upbeat and perky somewhat annoying, even if we envy them a little? How do we keep our sharp sense of humor and critical thinking skills while trying to get a bit less crabby and in better spirits? Any thoughts?

    Here are my 5 gratitude points for the day:
    --I haven't been hit by a truck yet today.
    --I probably won't see my boyfriend today, so chances are this won't be the day he dumps me.
    --My butt doesn't look nearly as fat as it used to.
    --I have a job with minimal supervision which allows me to occasionally screw around on the internet and post crap like this.
    --I don't have an acute life-threatening illness.

    Hey, I feel better already. Sort of. - 5/4/2010   11:07:15 AM
  • 139
    Beautiful reminder :) - 4/28/2010   11:50:57 AM
  • 138
    I keep myself positive by doing several things; write, volunteer, talking to my friends, being active in a lot of issues, working on the computer. - 4/19/2010   2:10:11 PM
    This article is a great reminder of where our heart should be on a daily basis! Very glad that I got to read this today. - 4/10/2010   6:53:39 PM
    Each day, each minute, each second is a blessing that I am grateful for. I am even grateful for the seemingly bad things that happen to me. I know that everything happens for a reason. And I know I will learn something from each moment good or bad. Thank you for sharing this with us. - 4/10/2010   6:58:10 AM
  • 135
    This article is a very good read,reminding lots of us about our attitude to be grateful,which we seem not to remember,and always focusing on the negative. - 4/5/2010   9:34:55 PM
  • 134
    This was a wonderful article. I started making gratitude known daily last year. I never ever want anyone to think that I am not gratful for the things I have. - 4/2/2010   9:33:30 AM
    Love this article. Having an attitude of graditude is good for all seasons and occasions. This attitude will get you through a lot of difficult situations. - 3/31/2010   4:58:52 AM
  • 132
    Loved your article. Thank you. I think I will read it every morning -- what a great track to start the day. And I'm starting that gratitude journal TODAY! - 3/3/2010   6:10:19 AM
  • 131
    Your blog was truly from the heart. In our busy lives always running we seldom take the time to think about the things that really matter. We do tend to look at the negative and give the postitive little attention. Thank you for this lovely blog. - 2/24/2010   9:45:31 PM
    This is a beautiful article, being in a state of gratitude can soften the roughness of life.
    Thanks for this ! - 2/17/2010   7:37:07 PM
    What a great article that is. Thanks for the inspiration:) - 2/12/2010   4:15:10 PM
  • 128
    This is a great article and I really enjoyed reading it. You have inspired me to start my own gratitude journal. - 2/3/2010   12:21:50 AM
  • 127
    Great article. It was nice to read about someone else who keeps a gratitude journal, too. I met my goal 17 days ago for keeping a gratitude journal every day, no matter what, for a complete year. The other day, it was pretty cool to go back and read over the year, and realize how much I have to be grateful for, to see how many "negatives" that I said thank you to turned out to lead to "positives", and to re-experience the gratitude for the love of friends and lovers! - 1/16/2010   9:11:42 AM
  • VEGGIE420
    I really needed to read this...I thank you and plan to start my gratitude journal tonight. - 1/14/2010   10:10:36 PM
    Thank you ! - 1/12/2010   9:44:26 AM
  • 124
    - 12/31/2009   6:47:35 PM
  • 123
    this was just beautiful. I'm feeling kind of sad and this is helping me. Thank you!!!!! - 12/31/2009   11:48:25 AM
  • MELSY82
    you have inspired me. Thank you! - 12/30/2009   12:51:20 PM
  • 121
    Very good read - Thanks! - 12/30/2009   8:15:48 AM
    Life is too short to focus on the negatives. We all need these reminders to say "Thank You" the health care providers that have kept us healthy, the people that surround us everyday, the ones that keep us going in small ways. - 12/24/2009   7:48:41 AM
  • ALC71261
    Working in a pharmacy, we see people in various stages of life. About once daily we look at each other and say, "We don't have any problems".
    - 12/15/2009   9:45:25 PM
  • 118
    I am thankful for your insights. I am blessed in millions of ways... reading this blog, Sparkpeople, and technology.... - 12/9/2009   9:46:30 PM
    What a wonderful, thoughtful article. I too find that I'm less appreciative then I should be at times. It's wonderful to step back and take stock of what I should be thanful for rather than discouraged by. - 12/2/2009   4:15:48 PM
  • 116
    Tanya, thank you so much for these word of wisdom. I promise to make a more dilligent effort to be and show my thankfullness for the abundent blessings that I am continually showered with. - 12/1/2009   5:23:41 PM
  • 115
    I have been unemployeed for 9 months. This has been a big eye opener for me. I always believe everything happens for a reason. This blog has helped me realize it may be as simple as being grateful for what I have, health, friends, family, and love. Thanks - 12/1/2009   10:02:04 AM
  • 114
    Not only is my 15 month old the person I'm most grateful but also my source of encouragement. When I find myself being negative and getting frustrated I stop and think, 'Is this something I would want my daughter to hear me say?' ...'Would I mind if she repeated what I was saying?' and I think about the person I would like her to become and try and model that behavior. When all else fails I take a break from thinking about the frustrating topic and distract myself with a mind game until I can calm down. - 12/1/2009   9:16:41 AM
    My 90 year old father in law just retired! After having 2 kinds of cancer, a heart attack, Krohn's disease and surviving WWII, his standard answer to How are you Dad? is "I can't believe how lucky I am!" Much like your grandfather, these gentlemen seem to have a truly grateful outlook and it does help. Thank you for sharing. - 11/30/2009   5:40:41 PM
  • 112
    Wow we were just talking about this in our sunday night class at church... Thank You so much for sharing....... - 11/30/2009   12:40:23 PM
  • 111
    I loved reading this - it's a great blog. I'm going to start a gratitude journal right now.

    Edited to add that I've started an SP journal. I found lots of things to be grateful for and now I feel wonderful (there's another!) - 11/29/2009   7:12:39 AM
    It's hard to be a caregiver. Not all elderly parents say thank-you. Not all elderly parents say nice things. It's nice to know some do.
    alfabo - 11/28/2009   4:48:39 PM
  • 109
    BEAUTIFUL!!!!! - 11/28/2009   12:55:58 PM
  • 108
    Now this was one great way to start this early day! Thanks so much for these great tips on how to be grateful each and every day! I love to share my time with others and this just inspired me to give just that little bit more! Great blog! - 11/28/2009   7:46:58 AM
  • 107
    Thankfulness is a habit, we all need to try to remember to practice regularly. - 11/28/2009   5:28:11 AM
  • 106
    Thanks so much! I really needed this today. Been a little down because an illness has hung on for a couple of months and I am getting tired of it. But as my mother always said "It could be worse". I have always tried to live by that quote and sometimes need to remind myself. I am truly going to try to list a few things I am thankful for every day just to prove to myself just how lucky I am! Anne - 11/27/2009   5:45:04 PM
  • 105
    Thank you for the reminder that we can find many things to be thankful for if we just look for them. Sometimes the smallest things are overlooked. - 11/27/2009   3:03:20 PM
  • 104
    Thank you for such an inspiring blog. I find that it so easy to get caught up into negative thinking and complaining. Thank you for reminding me to be gratefull and to cherish this moment. The present is a gift. - 11/27/2009   12:56:06 PM
    sharing wonderful and encouraging stories like this one is another way of giving. its usually the simpliest things we can do that help others and give meaning to our own lives. - 11/27/2009   4:31:45 AM
  • 102
    It is so nice to read something positive when I'm looking around to read something that will make sense to my brain when I'm frustrated or angry,or so stressed that nothing is making sense. I know I have found another one here, and I thank you for sharing it with me. kt10146 - 11/27/2009   2:31:50 AM
  • 101
    Great article, so appropriate for thanksgiving. Will try to incorporate some of the ideas in my life too. - 11/26/2009   10:52:03 AM
  • SPARKY104
    Thanks for sharing!!! What a great story. Happy thanksgiving to all. - 11/25/2009   12:37:59 PM
  • 99
    There are actually TWO areas on SparkPeople that people can WRITE their daily gratitudes if they care to. Both of these places are full of amazing SparkPeople members: (1) Message Boards - Staying Motivated - NOVEMBER GRATITUDES (all are welcome) - a new board is set up each month to start the new month; and (2) SparkTeams - Thanksgiving Community. I participate in BOTH and it is an AMAZING PRACTICE to regularly give thanks for all that you have in life. - 11/25/2009   11:36:57 AM
  • 98
    You have certainly given me a lot to think about this Thanksgiving! The Gratitude journal sounds like a great idea, I will have to start one. Thank you for sharing. - 11/25/2009   10:02:38 AM
  • 97
    thank you for sharing - 11/25/2009   7:56:59 AM

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