You may have read that contemplating and expressing gratitude for all that you have in life is one of the easiest and surest ways to increase your level of happiness. And it’s true. That’s why many ‘happiness gurus’ recommend making a daily routine or ritual of contemplating and expressing gratitude.

Despite this good advice, I have resisted taking this step over the several years since I first encountered this advice. For me, at least, focusing on and expressing gratitude seems somehow like a chore, like a homework assignment. So, given my attitude, it’s no wonder that I never took advantage of gratitude’s benefits. Until recently.

In the last two or three months I have embraced gratitude. I’m not as regular in my commitment as I would like, but often I do take the time to contemplate on the bounties in my life.

Today I’d like to share with you three ideas that have helped me incorporate gratitude into my life, and that have made it more effective and enjoyable for me. Perhaps they’ll trigger your own thoughts on how become a ‘gratitude convert’ and work out your own approach.

To Thank and To Savor

I first asked myself, what does it mean to feel gratitude? I believe there are two bases of gratitude: one is an attitude of thankfulness and the other one of appreciation.

When you give thanks, the question naturally arises, who are you thanking? If you are a believer, then the answer is simple – it is God. So, an easy way to incorporate thankfulness in your life if you are a religious person, is to add words of thankfulness into your prayers. There are many goals of prayer, and giving thanks is one of them.

How about if you are not a religious person, either not active or a non-believer? Giving thanks is open to you too. You can thank the universe, your lucky stars, fate, or simply give thanks without an object of your gratitude. Gratitude, after all, is a way of seeing and being, something that is felt deep inside, and that can be expressed even without an object of your thankfulness.

On the second foundation of gratitude, when you feel appreciation, what you are doing is ‘savoring’ all the goodness in your life. When I think of the word ‘savor,’ I no longer think of homework assignments, but rather of relaxation, connection, and goodness. It gets me excited and committed to be contemplating the sources of all that is good in my life.

Gratitude Backwards and Forwards

Gratitude is often presumed to refer to what exists now or has happened in the past, that is, we give thanks and savor what we have now and what we have experienced in the past. Although true, this view of gratitude is incomplete. Gratitude is also about the future, whether it’s about the rest of your day, the coming week, year, or the rest of your life.

For example, either in the evening or first thing in the morning, you can have a routine in which you take a minute or five to contemplate all the goodness in your life. Then, you can segue into thinking of the coming day. Since this day has not happened yet, you obviously cannot give thanks for what has not yet occurred. But you can give thanks for the opportunity that the day will bring. We are just as blessed for what we can accomplish and how we can spend our remaining time, as we are in the experiences and relationships which we’ve already accrued.

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For me, this forward-looking gratitude is even more compelling than the backward-looking kind. The reason is that thinking of the day ahead gives me the opportunity to live it differently than if I had not paused to consider all that it can bring.

Anchor Your Routine or Ritual

A routine refers to a behavior in which you engage at regular intervals. And you can think of a ritual as a routine that you imbue with spiritual or religious significance.

However you wish to define your gratitude practice, I recommend doing it regularly and, more specifically, doing it daily. To help develop a new habit, it is best to anchor it to an activity that is already habitual. Here are some examples. If you have a bedtime routine of, perhaps, having a cup of tea or hot chocolate … or brandy before going to bed, then you can incorporate your gratitude practice into the time in which you’re having this relaxing drink of choice. If you take a shower or bath in the morning, you also can incorporate gratitude into the time of your shower or bath.

What I do, is on my way to work, I stop by a small river, named Salt Creek, and stand near the water as it goes over the small dam that was built in the 1930’s. The rush of water soothes me and moves me into a mental space in which giving gratitude is but a small step.

Until next time,

Dr. Jack


Today’s Quotes

““As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John F. Kennedy

Last week Nicole Heilman, an Editorial Project Manager here at API and I were talking. She recommended ‘interweb’ as an entry for LanguageBrief. Since I never heard of this word before, I was excited to learn about it, especially since it seemed like a new word that’s been added to our lexicon. And the very next day, I actually saw ‘interweb’ in print.

Interweb is combination of ‘internet’ and ‘web’ and is used jokingly or disparaging to refer to the internet when used by a person who is so clueless about technology that they don’t even know the correct word for ‘internet.’

The next day I was perusing articles in an online magazine called Politico. They had an article about how people, including Donald Trump, were making fun of Jeb Bush. A Super PAC aligned with Jeb Bush sent out a flyer of Jeb Bush in which his image had one white one hand and one black hand, an example of Photoshopping gone bad. One reader on the comment section of this article wrote regarding Jeb Bush’s campaign, “Face it, you guys SUCK at this whole newfangled interwebs thing-a-ma-jig.”