When individuals start a daily gratitude journal or list, they often begin to feel a greater sense of connectedness to the world. This may start a self-perpetuating positive cycle both in your direct interactions as well as influencing how others respond to you in the future. Having or showing appreciation for good friendships may further enrich these relationships, giving you even more to be thankful for. Even a simple "thank you" spurs people to act in compassionate ways they might not otherwise consider. People thanked for giving directions help more willingly in the future, social workers who get thank-you letters visit their clients more often, and diners whose waiters write "thanks" on the check give bigger tips. Call it corny, but gratitude just may be the glue that holds society together.
Make an effort to think about the many things in your life, both large and small, that you have to be grateful about. These might include supportive relationships, sacrifices that others have made for you, facts about your life such as your advantages and opportunities, or even gratitude for life itself. In all of these cases you are identifying previously unappreciated aspects of your life, for which you can be thankful. Each day you will spend a few minutes writing about the things for which you are grateful (e.g., a nice cup of coffee, a warm smile received from a stranger, an income, a hug from your partner, having food, etc). Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Try to notice things you would normally take for granted. Once you get started and begin doing this on a regular basis, it become easier to find everyday things that you are grateful for. Gratitude lists help you focus on the things that you have versus the things that you do not. There are no limitations or definitions of things that you must be thankful for. The responses will vary by each individual person, as everyone is different, and thus, different things make each us feel grateful for various reasons. Taking time to say thanks allows you to take time from your busy day to notice all the small, positive things that have transpired…which often get lost amongst the multitude of stressors we all deal with. Gratitude lists often help you focus on the important things in life!
Some of the things for which you are grateful might be the same on some days whereas others might be unique to that day. If you notice that you’re writing the same things every day (i.e. my husband, my house, my health) and what you’re writing is not specific, you may need to put a little more time and care into what you’re jotting down. Remember, your skills at writing these lists will increase over time. While you make feel a little fake or skeptical about writing these lists at first…that’s natural and okay. Learning a new way of thinking can take time and over the course of a few weeks, most will find that their responses have become authentic and genuine.
Take a few minutes each day to record what you are thankful for. As you are writing each item down relieve the moment and the emotions and feelings associated with it. Try doing this every day for a week and see what you come up with. On some days, you will find that you naturally repeat yourself, which is fine. If you like, involve a loved one while doing the exercise, and do it together! If you enjoy doing this activity, use a separate notebook to continue writing your daily gratitude notations. If you find writing to be too tedious, pick a time during the day, such as driving home from work, in the shower, etc., where you can think about your moments of daily appreciation.