With the holidays here and another year quickly coming to an end, you might already be thinking about what you’ve been grateful for this year, as well as what you you want to change in 2024.
Some people love setting new year’s resolutions, some people don’t. Personally, I fall somewhere in between.
After the unexpected challenges we’ve faced over the last few years, I think we are all looking ahead and ready to move ahead.
Hopefully we’ve also become better at expressing gratitude, and have a better idea of what really matters to us now, too. But maybe this is an area you need to work a little more. I don’t usually make a formal resolution, nor do I wait until January 1st to start trying to make some positive changes. But truthfully, I also struggle to stick to it.
Struggling with Gratitude
At the career center I work at, we occasionally get clients that aren’t quite sure what their strengths, weaknesses, and job skills are, so we have a pretty significant collection of different personality assessment quizzes. There are so many out there, ranging from the professional ones like Myers-Briggs (I’m an ISFJ – what are you?) to the “just for fun” like most things on Buzzfeed.
Occasionally we get to try out new tests ourselves to see if they are useful or not.
For the most part, the results of these sorts of tests aren’t that surprising. Some of them can be pretty easy to manipulate so that you get the result you want to get. Or, if you are a self-aware person (as I consider myself to be), you’ll already know what you are good at and what you’re interested in.
But the results of one personality test I took a while back, really surprised me.
I scored the lowest in the “expressing gratitude” section.
Yikes! I knew I struggled with expressing gratitude, but it wasn’t something I would have considered to be my weakest character strength.
(Although, according to the test, it isn’t a “weakness” but a strength that comes “less naturally”.)
But when I mentioned this to my husband, he wasn’t nearly as surprised by the result as I was. So maybe it wasn’t too far off, after all?
What is Gratitude, Any Ways?
Gratitude is a pretty popular buzzword. Many people think that it’s related to being thankful – and it is. But it’s more than just that.
According to the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, gratitude is made up of two parts:
- recognizing and acknowledging the good in your life
- recognizing and acknowledging that this good comes from outside sources
Many people believe that expressing gratitude can change your life for the better.
The general idea is that by practicing gratitude and focusing on the positives, you can become a happier person. It can strengthen relationships, improve your mental and physical health, and can make you more successful with your career.
The benefits are nearly endless, according to science.
So I decided that once again, I’m going to focus on expressing gratitude.
And since there are two parts to expressing gratitude, my focus has two parts as well.
Just Say Thanks!
I like to think of myself as a polite and friendly person. When it comes to my written communication, expressing gratitude is not a problem for me. My emails and Slack messages are full of pleases and thank-you’s!
The same can be said for most of my phone communication as well, especially in professional contexts.
But in my personal life? After getting that test result, I quickly realized that expressing gratitude doesn’t really come naturally to me, after all.
So the first part of my focus is to say “Thank You” more often and in more situations.
This is a simple, yet powerful way to start recognizing and acknowledging the people that bring good into my life. And it also makes other people’s days a little brighter, as well.
But it took a bit more work for me to figure out how to start recognizing and acknowledging what the good in my life actually is.
This “3 Things You’re Grateful For” Thing Isn’t Cutting It
I read The Happiness Project many years ago. The best-selling author of the book, Gretchen Rubin, recommends keeping a journal and listing 3 things you’re grateful for each day. So I tried to do just that with hopes of reaping some of these benefits myself.
But my life is pretty routine. Today doesn’t look too different than yesterday did.
Trying to record “3 things I’m grateful for today” became very repetitive, very fast.
Within a couple of weeks, I found myself recording what I was grateful for just to go through the motion of doing so. I wasn’t connected to it, and I wasn’t getting the intended benefit from it.
Which is why I’ve been trying my own approach, by asking myself one simple question each day, instead:
What Was the Best Thing About Today?
At the end of the day, while laying in bed, I simply think back over the day and try to determine what “wins” as being the best thing.
Some days there are a lot of things that went well and it’s hard to pick just one. I accomplished something meaningful at work, I had a great traffic day with my site, and I slept great, and my husband cooked me a delicious dinner, and the weather was perfect, and I hit every green light on my commute.
Other times, finding even one thing can be a struggle…
But that’s the exact reason why I chose to word my focus question the way that I did.
On those really bad days, I don’t have to try to force myself to come up with 3 good things. I don’t even have to come up with something that’s necessarily good. Just whatever was the best part of today. Even if that best thing is that I survived and the bad day is finally over. (Because let’s be honest, some days that is a big accomplishment!)
If this doesn’t help get me to sleep within a few minutes, I get more specific.
Why I’m grateful for these things?
How did they come to be a part of my life?
Why does this make my life better?
And if that still hasn’t lulled me to sleep, I think about the little (perhaps sometimes even ridiculous), things that I’m grateful for, too.
Shouldn’t You Be Writing This Down?
It is usually recommended that you write down this sort of thing – in a gratitude journal, for example. This way you can document your progress, and have something to look back on those bad days to help you remember the good things in your life.
Personally, reflecting on my day while trying to fall asleep works better than writing it down. It has helped me get to sleep much faster, since I’m no longer tossing and turning, thinking about negative, stressful things. I’ve struggled with sleeping disorders all my life, and this simple change in mindset has done wonders to help me.
If you prefer to write it down, there are numerous apps and journals available to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for. Some will help guide you while others include blank pages. Some have religious or spiritual themes, while others are more humorous and sometimes even a little risqué.
But of course, it’s up to you! The important thing is that you are trying – it doesn’t really matter what that looks like.
Learning to Express Gratitude Is Easy – And Doesn’t Have to Cost You A Thing
If expressing gratitude is something you’re hoping to get better at, there are so many ways you can do so!
And guess what?
Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to cost you a thing.
And is something you can start doing immediately. Yes – right now!
Make a donation or donate your unwanted items. Hold the door open for someone. Write a positive review. Share and like the blog posts and articles that you love. Carry out a random act of kindness. Leave a generous tip. Pay something forward. Say thank you.
Or simply step away from that computer or put down that phone for a few minutes and think about the things in your life that you are grateful for.
And make it a habit to do these things more often.
And hey, why not share this post, too? I promise I’ll be grateful if you do 🙂
YOUR TURN: Do you struggle with expressing gratitude? What simple changes have you made to become a more grateful person?
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Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.