The Mystery of Gratitude and 7 Ways to Practice Being More Grateful

forest during sunset

Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed. ~ Maya Angelou.

With Thanksgiving this week we are reminded of so many things for which we feel grateful; family, friends, food on the table, and a roof over our heads. When we practice gratitude for ourselves or towards others, it changes our priorities and really helps us appreciate others and what we have. During this particularly turbulent and harsh political climate, with so many negative emotions on display, a little gratitude can go a long way.

variety of fruits

“‘Enough’ is a feast. Buddhist proverb

So let’s unpack gratitude. Researchers have come up with different definitions of gratitude (yes, gratitude is actually researched! And we should be grateful for that, too…we’ll tell you why later). The one thing all the researchers agree upon is gratitude is a thankful response to something beyond oneself – that the source of what they are thankful for was given to them by “another”. This helps people connect to something larger than themselves – to other people, nature, or a higher power. And this is why we should be grateful for the research – it indicates that feeling and showing gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness and self-esteem and that gracious people feel more joy.


“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Aesop

So, who doesn’t want more happiness, positivity, better self-esteem, and more joy?  If expressing our gratitude can do all that then why not show it all year long instead of just on a holiday? You don’t need to give gifts or take much of your time to start experiencing gratitude throughout the day. If you’re wondering how to get started, we have a few simple ideas to get you rolling down the road towards a more grateful life.

silhouette of man touching woman against sunset sky

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne

  • Say, “Thank you.” – Acknowledgment can go a long way. Mom was right when she reminded you of your “Please” and “Thank you’s”! They may only be words but acknowledging a kind act no matter how small makes us human and connects us with others. There are simple moments that pass through the day where “thank you” is repeated often and sometimes mindlessly like when someone holds open the door for us. But there may be moments where these simple words have much more weight. Take time to thank someone for a job well done or for being by your side during a medical procedure. If you can’t say thank you in person, a good old fashion thank you note written from the heart will make your sentiment known.

silver colored heart lock bridge

  • Silent Acknowledgment – Try imagining how the food got onto your plate each morning, afternoon or evening and silently thank the farmer, the animal that gave its life or the server that brought your food. Before strapping on your seat belt in the car say a silent thank you for the four wheels that take you where you want to go. Favorite book? Piece of Art?  Music?  Be mindful of the swirl of creativity that happened to bring about the piece you love.
  • Share – Share your things, your time, your energy and most of all your heart.  Be generous with your time and give it to others when you can. Be gracious with your feelings and share your thoughts with your significant others. Don’t leave loved ones in the dark on how you feel about them, tell them and tell them often.

sharing food

  • Be Present – Step back from your work or the pressing issues in your life and spend a moment – a single moment – paying attention to where you are, what you see and feel, and what’s going on immediately around you. Think: How can you appreciate the flowers if you don’t stop to smell them?
  • Journal – Start a gratitude journal so that you can document what you are thankful for on a daily basis.  Imagine a journal full of the riches that life has offered you! If you need structure, just write down 3 things a day that you are grateful for that day. It can be as simple as a spoon (try eating a bowl of ice cream without a spoon!) or as complicated as the invention of the touchscreen (your smartphone wouldn’t be so smart without it)!

woman lying on dry leaves

  • Acceptance – Life is not always joyful and sometimes it is downright sorrowful but when we accept the happy and sad parts of life, we can be grateful that we get to be here to experience both.
  • Sleep – When you get a good night’s rest, you’re already one step on the road to grateful!

Try cultivating gratitude every day this Thanksgiving week and by the end, it just may be a habit you can’t break!  See you in the next blog!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked for Julianna Rae in Graphics and Customer Service, she now writes for the blog at