THE BLOG
11/19/2012 08:14 am ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

Not Feeling Grateful? Why You Should and How to Start

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The month of November is one of my favorite months, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This is so for many reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that this time of year reminds us to give thanks.

Practicing gratitude means appreciating aspects of your life and not taking anything for granted. The positive psychology movement has put great emphasis on this practice, and researchers, such as Martin Seligman, are finding that not only is practicing gratitude "a nice thing to do," but it may offer health benefits as well.

  1. A More Positive Attitude: When things are tough, or when we go through a rough patch, it is easy to get caught up in all of the things that seem wrong. We may dwell on the negative and quickly find ourselves falling into a depressive state. When we stop to express and feel appreciation of those things that are good or going right, however, it shifts the focus away from the negative and cultivates a more positive, optimistic attitude.
  2. Improved Energy and Productivity: When we allow ourselves to dwell in the negative, our energy and productivity may wane. We become less motivated to accomplish and do, and instead fall into a state of apathy. Gratitude keeps us in a positive, "can do" state, energizing us and helping us to thrive.
  3. Gratitude Breeds Generosity: When we only see the negative in our life, we find it difficult to sum up energy to look beyond our personal situation. Feeling thankful for what we have gives us the energy and inspiration to help others.
  4. Improved Health: Studies suggest those who are thankful are generally healthier. They tend to exercise more regularly, experience fewer symptoms of stress and enjoy better sleep quality.
  5. Appreciation of Non-Material Things: Practicing gratitude helps us to see the good in all aspects of life. It takes the focus off of material goods and instead puts emphasis on the intangibles, such as family, friends, relationships, and other non-material aspects of life.

Practicing gratitude goes beyond a "thank you" -- it requires that we actively feel and express appreciation on a regular basis. Take a moment now, and do the following:

  1. Sit down with pen and paper, away from distractions. Keep your area quiet.
  2. Think about your life -- all aspects of your life.
  3. Write down all of the things for which you are thankful. Don't filter anything, just write and continue to write until you can't think of anything else for which you are grateful.
  4. Go over your list and designate the things that are material (can be purchased) with an "M" and those things that are intangible in your life as "G."
  5. Rewrite your list to only include those things marked with an "G."

To practice gratitude on a regular basis, do the following:

  1. Reference Your "Gs": Each day, revisit your list of "Gs" and spend five to 10 minutes feeling grateful for them. Really feel it. Smile and absorb the good vibes you get from thinking about how lucky you are to have your "Gs" in your life.
  2. People: Tell individuals how much you appreciate them. Let them know how much they mean to you. Make an effort at least once a day to tell those who are close to you how you feel. For those individuals you don't see that often, let them know on a regular basis, such as once a week, how grateful you are that they are in your life.
  3. Continue to Add: Your list should be a work in progress. Each day, try to add a new item for which you are grateful.
  4. Pay Attention: Be mindful of your life, your surroundings, and your everyday joys. Some of the simplest things can be deserving of your gratitude. For instance, every morning my cat wakes me up with a purr and several nuzzles. I am grateful for his unconditional love and his loving wake-up call. (It is much better than an alarm clock!)
  5. As a Weapon: Keep your list of "Gs" in a readily accessible place and when you feel down or sad, use the list to remind yourself of all the good you have in your life. This will help you gain perspective and refocus on productive and positive thoughts.
  6. Spread the Gratitude: Thanksgiving is a great time to share your gratitude with others. At the dinner table, start the meal off by telling your guests what you are most thankful for and encourage them to do the same. Sharing gratitude is one of the best ways to spread it!

How do you practice gratitude? How often do you do so?

For more by Brett Blumenthal, click here.

For more on Thanksgiving, click here.

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