Wisdom//

9 Inspiring Ways to Practice Gratitude — Even When Life Gets Hard

These simple strategies will make a big impact on your happiness.

Courtesy of Dragana Jokmanovic / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Dragana Jokmanovic / Shutterstock

When you harness the power of gratitude, it can be truly life-changing. Not only can it give your brain a boost and make you feel more connected to others, but it can also change your perspective on life.

Country singer Reba McEntire recently opened up to PEOPLE about life in her sixties, saying, “I’m thankful for where I am…And I realize that anything can happen in the blink of an eye to change your circumstances,” she said. “Live for the moment, live for today: Can’t do anything about what happened in the past, and don’t put your worries into tomorrow. Just think positive and it will manifest.”

We asked Thrive Global community members how they practice gratitude every day and how this practice affects their well-being. Their answers will inspire you to feel extra thankful today:

Start a physical gratitude bank

“I keep a gratitude vase on my desk, and every time I’m thankful for something — from a good medical outcome to hearing from a dear friend —  I record my gratitude on a brightly colored note and place it into my vase. It’s super cheerful and keeps me mindful of all I’m grateful for. I’ll read all the notes at the end of the year.”

—Sandy Judd, health and wellness coach and health writer, New Boston, NH

Try “arrow thank yous”

“I do informal expressions of gratitude, what I call ‘arrow thank yous.’ These are more opportunistic, spontaneous moments of thanks — like when your eyes happen to rest on a perfectly timed quote that reassures you that everything is going to be more than okay.”

—Maria Baltazzi, Ph.D., television producer, transformational travel guide, happiness mentor, Los Angeles, CA

Interrupt your inner dialogue

“While I do write in my gratitude journal every day, what I find so powerful about gratitude is how it can be leveraged in the moment to lift us out of our negative inner dialogue. After my husband passed, it was easy for me to ruminate about how difficult my life was. The way out was to focus on what I did appreciate about my life. I use this technique now whenever I feel myself get lost in negativity or feel sorry for myself. I take a deep breath and choose what I am grateful for in this moment. It works every time to move me in a direction I consciously want more of. Try it and see what shifts in you.”

—Kimberly Napier, certified life coach, Boston, MA

Make it social

“For more than 16 years, one of my very best friends and I have emailed a gratitude list of five things for which we have been grateful over the last 24 hours. It helps me to really focus in on the small details of life for which to be thankful and is such a positive way to start the day. It is often the little things that make the biggest difference.”

—Christine Denker, writer, Omaha, NE

Write it down and mix it up

“My goal is to journal at least three things every day I’m grateful for. And I loved reading Tim Ferris speak about this. His point is that more value is found in being sure these are three different things each day. If I find myself struggling early, I look straight up at the bluest sky and remember how grateful I am for the sky, the sun, and how spectacular everything in nature is. I stop to think what it takes for trees to continue to thrive and grow.”

—Susan J Hilger, life and leadership coach, St. Petersburg, FL

Use gratitude to flip your mood

“Every morning, I used to journal about the things I’m thankful for, but then it lost its meaning and become just another ‘to do.’ Now I use gratitude to flip my mood. Recently, we were stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. I was worried we’d miss our flight, and I was a bit annoyed because it seemed everything was going wrong that day. I closed my eyes and said, ‘Thank you shuttle bus driver for getting me safely to the airport. Thank you pilot for getting me home safe to my family. Thank you sunshine for hitting my face today.’ It instantly changed my mood! I use gratitude when I least expect it!”

—Lisa Pezik, content and digital marketing expert, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada

Show your gratitude by being there for others

“I feel the best way to be grateful to my near and dear ones is by being there for them. I ensure my presence as and when required so I can give back to my people. Challenging and happy times both bring along a prominent aspect with them — the realisation of what we have. On every such chance, I close my eyes and thank the universe for giving me that experience. It truly enriches me as a person. Expressing gratitude adds immense positivity to my life and makes me want to keep up the positive momentum. Bring it on, life!”

—Aakriti Agarwal, coach, facilitator, and image consultant, Hyderabad, India

Embrace thank you notes

“I’ve had this habit of writing small thank you notes to my friends after we’ve met for lunch or a day out. This momentary reflection really helps me acknowledge the relationships I have. In the workplace, I often take a deep breath and repeat to myself: ‘I’m grateful for this.’ It calms me down and helps me gather the courage and strength to work through the difficulties I face.”

—Priyanka Bantwal, psychologist, Karnataka, India

Treat gratitude like a muscle

“Gratitude is a muscle and, like all muscles, needs to be strengthened. As a child, my parents would point out a sunset or the oak tree in our front yard and say, ‘Aren’t we lucky to have something so beautiful?’ Those small gestures began a lifetime of gratitude muscle-building that I was unaware of until I became a parent. I repeated my parents’ examples and stretched the gratitude muscle. Every Thursday night was ‘Thankful Thursday,’ and we all shared what we were thankful for. Our sons learned early on to be grateful for food, friends, their education, and — most importantly — one another.”

—Heidi Johnson, nonprofit executive director, Pasadena, CA

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