Five Ways Smart, Savvy People Cultivate Gratitude

by | November 21, 2018 | About Beth, Coaching, Leadership

I vividly remember when my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer 18 years ago. He was given a few short months to live.I was crushed. He was only 62-years old and had worked his whole life to retire. He would never enjoy retirement.  My boys were little. Their “Pap,” was their hero; in fact, he was my hero too. Full of love, laughter, and life, he'd readily take them to the convenience store for candy, and on adventures in his red canoe. We weren't ready to him let go.  

“It wasn’t fair,” I sobbed. But, it happened anyway.Through immense heartbreak, intense suffering, and some of the darkest days of my life I learned to appreciate every day and every breath as a gift. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. What we do with our limited days on earth is a choice.

I realized that none of the materials things I spent endless energy chasing would go with me into the next life, and I started to live gratefully for what I had. When I became grateful for what I had, I became content and found greater fulfillment and happiness in life overall.

Studies show that practicing gratitude increases positivity, pleasure, and passion. It enhances energy, illuminates purpose, and strengthens relationships. Conversely, it reduces anxiety, diffuses depression, and minimizes stress.

No matter how difficult our days, or our circumstances, there’s always something to be thankful for. Here are five ways I learned to cultivate gratitude, turning my bad days into glad days.

Notice Your Days From a Big-Picture Point of View

Do you have a roof over your head, a bed and a pillow on which to lay your head? Based on national reports, it’s estimated that no less than 150 million people, or about 2 percent of the world’s population, are homeless. When you lay your head on your pillow at night and snuggle beneath warm comfy blankets be grateful for this luxury. You’ll likely sleep better too!

Did you eat a meal today? Around the world, 815 million people regularly go to bed hungry, according to a report from the United Nations food agencies. That's about 11 percent of the world's population. If you went to bed today, with a full tummy, be thankful.

Did you arrive home safely from a recent trip? The National Safety Council estimated automotive fatalities topped 40,000 in 2017. That means 40,000 Americans weren’t as fortunate as you.  About 4.57 million people were injured seriously enough to require medical attention. If you and your loved ones arrived home safely, be glad.

Do you have a job? According to CNN Business, even though unemployment is at a 17-year low, 7.5 million able-bodied Americans were still unemployed at the start of 2018. If you have a job, appreciate it.

Do you have your health? Around 1.7 million people received a new cancer diagnosis in 2017. They weren’t as privileged as you. Be happy you have your health. By the way, grateful people tend to be healthier people.

Smart, savvy people recognize and are amazed at all the goodness around them

Keep a Gratitude Journal.

A gratitude journal doesn’t have to be a fancy notebook filled with eloquent words. Pick up a tablet or inexpensive notebook and write down at least one thing you’re grateful for every day. When you’re having a bad day or a pity party for one – yourself, open your journal and relish in the good things from your past. The gratitude and good thoughts will be like a cheerful bouquet of flowers to brighten your day and make you feel better.

Regularly Compliment Others

Smart, savvy people notice the goodness in others and give at least one compliment every day, whether directly to a person or by sharing appreciation of something. They commend their co-workers for a job well-done. They praise their children for effort. They applaud their spouse for taking out the trash. It’s the little things that matter.

Did you receive great service? TELL the person who took care of you how much you appreciate them. So often, we take great service for granted; after all, “it’s their job,” we say. And, while you’re at it – remember to say, “please.” “When you have a minute, can I please have a glass of water?” “Thank you.”

Did someone hold the door open for you? Smile and say, “Thank you. That was very kind of you.” Next time be the friendly door holder. You may be surprised at the warm fuzzy feeling you get from simple acts of kindness.

Does the cashier at the grocery store have a nice smile? Tell them. It may be the only kind word they hear that day.

Do you like my eyeglasses? Tell me - everyone else does. It makes me chuckle.

Smart, savvy people notice simple things and say small, but sincere words, that can make a big difference in someone’s day. They are less self-centered and grow in self-esteem.

Stop Complaining, Criticizing and Gossiping

All three of these behaviors are toxic to our mind, pollute our attitude and rob us of both energy and joy. Stop, think, and reframe your thought to one that’s more positive and productive. It is impossible to be both grateful and grumpy.

Is your consistently late co-worker annoying you? Instead of complaining, gently say something like, “I noticed you’ve been coming in late, is everything okay?” Show empathy.

Did an employee, child or spouse make a mistake? Rather than criticize, ask “What happened? How can I help you?” Smart, savvy people build others up instead of tearing them down.

Instead of listening to gossip and perpetrating it, be the hero that stops it.

Smart, savvy people see possibility where others only see criticism.  They strengthen relationships.

Get Involved in Causes that are Important to You

Smart, savvy people who appreciate what they have, donate their time, talent and money to something bigger than themselves. It can be invigorating to help others. That’s why I built Beth Gives Back into my business model. Nothing makes a heart happier than knowing that you’ve impacted another life. Look at how many people donate money when there’s a national disaster. Observe how many people take their talent and go to rebuild a community after a hurricane. Don’t wait until the next big event, join a cause that’s important to you today, and start making a difference in the world. You’ll be glad you did. Smart, savvy people help others. 

Smart, savvy change is possible. How will you make the most of your limited days on earth? Start with gratitude. What's one thing you're grateful for today?