therapy

Express Gratitude Daily

I rarely used to tell people that I appreciated them.  I recall rejecting and criticizing kind things done for me, gifts given to me, etc, mostly because I focused more on the superficial/material aspect rather than the thoughtfulness and intent.  When people tell me that I possess a “positive energy,” I’m often a bit surprised because I used to exude such negativity.  One way that I was able to shift my perspective was by expressing gratitude on a regular basis.  Such a feat isn’t as easy as people may believe.  Solely telling someone that they “just need to be more positive” doesn’t help much, or at least I find those statements quite annoying because such statements negate the fact that there’s probably an underlying reason for the lack of optimism (ie, low self-esteem, depression, traumatic upbringing, grief, etc).  The expression of gratitude takes time and practice, and when you’re not used to sincerely telling people that you’re thankful, then it’s going to feel awkward at first.  For example, if a relative buys you a hideous Christmas sweater, focus more on the kind gesture rather than the dissatisfaction of the gift itself.  As time goes by, the practice takes less effort and feels more sincere (ie, “Thanks Aunt Sally, the sweater will keep me warm during the winter months”).

If you need even more motivation to be thankful, the expression of gratitude also has many benefits:  increased happiness, better physical health (more willingness to seek medical help, more involvement in physical activity), and increased self-esteem, to name a few.

In addition to sincerely saying “thank you,” the following is a list of strategies that may enhance feelings of gratitude (experiment and find out which ones work best for you to carry out on a regular basis):

1. Write a “thank you” note.  Some people feel more comfortable with writing than verbalizing.  Giving someone a note shows that you took the time and effort to write a few kind words.

2. Keep a gratitude journal.  Take some time at the end of your day to recall 1-2 things that you were thankful for, or you can also designate one day per week to reflect on the things you were thankful for from the week.  I’m not organized enough to carry a journal (I ended up writing on post-its which would clutter up my nightstand), but think it’s a great way to keep track of things you’re grateful for on a regular basis.  My variation of journaling is doing a weekly “Thankful Thursday” post on my Snapchat (my username = freudandfashion if you’re interested in my weekly reminders).

3. Think of what you’re grateful for (as a regular practice, or during prayer if you’re religious).  If you’re like me and can’t remember to write in a journal, then practice thinking or saying aloud to yourself what you’re thankful for from the day.  Choose the time of day (I prefer bedtime right before sleep) and make it routine.

4. Express gratitude directly in person.  This is my preferred route.  As a psychiatrist, I strive to make sure I communicate directly because I believe it’s integral in relationships, including the development of good therapeutic connections with my patients.  Ways to express gratitude directly includes buying coffee for coworkers (coffee at work always makes me happy!), taking a friend out to lunch, stopping by to visit a friend, etc.

5. Shift your perspective from negative to positive.  If you find yourself in an angry mood, try shifting your focus by thinking of something that went well during your day.  If you’re stuck in traffic and find yourself getting tense and irritable, try to express gratitude at that very moment.  Saying what you’re thankful for can shift your mood as it changes your focus.

A lot of people tend to think that you have to express thanks for only major things such as having a supportive family, an education, a decent job, etc, but you can definitely be thankful for even the smallest thing that went well during your day.  I’ve expressed gratitude for things such as hitting all green lights on my commute to work, seeing a cute dog that made me smile, not getting a parking ticket while out in Hollywood, etc.  Basically, you can always find something to be thankful for.  And with today being Thanksgiving, no better day to start implementing this practice than today!

I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving! xoxo, Vania

 

Photo by Marlon Santos

19 thoughts on “Express Gratitude Daily

  1. We were driving home yesterday from our daughters…it’s only a 2.5 hr trip, but at some point, realizing it was Thanksgiving eve, we decided to just start identifying things in our lives we have to be thankful for.There were dozens of things..like you mentioned…little things as well as big things. When the kids were growing up, I would ask each of them what some of the highlights of the past year were that they were thankful for, I would then type it all up and create an annual “Thanksgiving plaque” that we would frame in an 8 by 10 frame. It was a great way to Chronological the year…used to have them hanging on the wall…made me want to go find them…. Happy thanksgiving to you too! DM

    • hi DM! Happy post thanksgiving! What a wonderful tradition you had with creating the Thanksgiving Plaque! I think instilling the importance of gratitude at such an early age had a great impact. Hope u find the plaques to reflect back on those times 🙂 I hope u had a wonderful time w/ your family this holiday and enjoy the weekend!

  2. I just wanted to say how much I like the five tips towards positive thinking. You are right, about 3 years ago when I first came to the mental health facility where I’m at, the teacher/counselor for our class would always spout out with: “Just be positive.”

    So when I went to the mental health facility retreat that year, I asserted myself and said we need more on HOW to be positive. The teacher got upset; he told me during break, “What do you mean? We always talk about being positive.” He just didn’t get it.

    I like the idea of a weekly thanksgiving journal. I have much to be thankful for — like the fact that I’m not six feet under. I got a certificate for being the most positive person in the housing group that year and like you, it really surprised me because when I first entered the mental health system, I was extremely negative and angry. I recall having to work on positive thinking with a one to one psychologist.

    Speaking of thanks-thanks for your post, blog, and open-heart. Happy Thanksgiving! – LaVancia

    • Hi Lavancia! Your comment definitely made me smile because you have a wonderful way of sharing your experience to connect with my posts — it’s really quite validating to hear that you went through a similar process of going from angry/negative to being voted as “most positive!” Happy to hear that you have much to be thankful for. If you end up keeping a gratitude journal, update me on how it goes and if it works for u!

      And speaking of thanks — I appreciate your comments and support w/ my blog. Your experiences are something that many can connect with so i’m very appreciative of your openness in sharing your process and insights 🙂

  3. Happy Thanksgiving! Gratitude is an important part of happiness. I am grateful to have gotten to get to know you and other friends during my time in fellowship and to keep in contact years afterwards! Hope to meet up in 2016 at some point!

    • Hi Lanny, hope u had a wonderful thanksgiving! thanks so much for your comment…i am also happy that we’ve maintained contact ever since the grueling years at armc! And yes, we’ve got plenty time in 2016, so we have to meet up again!

  4. Loving this article! My life completely changed after making a conscious decision to express gratitude on a consistent basis. It works wonders! I’ve shared this simple knowledge with family, friends and strangers everywhere I go. There is this strong cosmic force behind the use of gratitude, which only helps you attract more of what you’re grateful of. Thank you for posting this great article. I am forwarding this to my family and friends. Have a happy Thanksgiving! ✌️

    • Hi Alex, happy black friday (if you’re one for shopping) and post thanksgiving! Happy to hear that consistent expression of gratitude has positively impacted your life as well. and i believe in some type of cosmic force as well, esp when i observe my mood change from totally negative to positive once i shift my thoughts to what i’m thankful for! I appreciate your comment and also for sharing it! have a good weekend 🙂

  5. Pingback: attitude of gratitude | a healer's heart

  6. Fabulous post! The section where you wrote about being grateful for not getting a parking ticket in Hollywood made me smile! This is an awesome post in part because it’s short yet you hit all the most practical points that we can actually remember and use.

    I forget to tell my girls how much I appreciate it when they do the right thing. They are so sensitive that it’s crucial that I start letting them know more often about how grateful I am when they are helpful, thoughtful etc.

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I send you a big hug! I’m grateful to have found YOU online – you’re one of the most lovely gifts the internet has given me.

    XOXO
    Dyane

    p.s. I retweeted this post and it was picked up by the Postpartum Post!

    • Hi Dyane! Hugs back and hope u had a nice thanksgiving w/ your family! I figure so-cal folks would relate in some way to my parking ticket in hollywood comment lol. i’ve received so many in that area, that NOT getting one is a blessing! 😉 I think expressing thanks to your girls would be a great way to incorporate more gratitude into both theirs and your life.

      Oh, and thanks so much for RT of my post — reading your tweet was one of the first things i did this morning and hearing that it was picked up by Postpartum Post was a great start to my day, so i’m thankful for that, and YOU for your support! xoxo

  7. I like your balanced approach here. I tend to avoid articles about positive thinking/gratitude because they often hold people entirely responsible for their own suffering, and assume that people who aren’t optimistic just aren’t trying hard enough to get away from pain. That’s not compassionate–it’s annoying or downright hurtful. I really appreciate that you acknowledged that early on in your post.

    One thing that has really helped me is realizing that gratitude doesn’t always have to be for other people or outside events. During those times when I just need to put self-care first, I like to think about things in myself that I am grateful for. It’s a good way to start treating yourself as a friend.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! You highlight exactly why i wrote the sentences about the expectation of many clinicians (and the public in general) that people can easily think so positively…as if it was so simple as an on/off switch. definitely not the most empathetic nor effective approach. And i think it’s awesome that you express gratitude about yourself! the most important type of love is self-love, and you bring up a great way to emphasize it.

  8. I love this. I try to implement gratitude everyday usually when I get home from work and right before I go to bed. And sometimes right when I wake up too. Wow, I do this more than I thought. lol

    • That’s awesome you’ve made it such a regular practice! I have to do it after work because I’m always wound up and anxious from the day that it helps to shift my focus to something more positive.

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