Happy November! With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the month of November is always a very popular time for talking about gratitude. (And, of course, it's the month for the 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge!) Like many topics in the self-help space, the concept of gratitude can be a bit vague at times. You're probably well-aware of what the word means from a dictionary-definition standpoint ("the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness"), but actually putting gratitude into practice — and keeping focused on that practice for more than just the month of November — can be a more complex endeavor.
Being grateful is one of the best ways to embrace a positive, present life. When you're grateful, it's impossible to be negative. It's also an excellent tool for staying in the moment. If you're struggling to stay present, focusing on what you have to be grateful for can bring you back into the moment. But gratitude is more than just thinking "I'm thankful for..." Gratitude means taking action and putting the thankful thoughts into practice. I've given the concept of practicing gratitude a lot of thought, and here are the five best ways I've found to be grateful.
SHOW GRATITUDE BY GIVING.
One of the best ways you can show gratitude is by giving — both to yourself and to others. When it comes to being thankful for yourself and cultivating self-love, you can give to yourself by being patient with yourself when you're going through a difficult time, by caring for your body and your mind, by making choices that will make you happier and more fulfilled. When it comes to being thankful for others, giving back to them is one of the best ways to show your gratitude. You can give them time, patience, love, kindness. You can also give them physical things too if you're able — like donating the goods you no longer have use for to those in need or donating money to a friend's Kickstarter project. (Two I'm loving right now? aquabook and The Spark Planner). We all have something to give and it's such a wonderful way to express thankfulness. When it comes to giving, also consider the gifts you have to give the world. If you're really talented at something, pursuing that passion and sharing your talents is a gift you give not only yourself but those who get to experience your work. This, in its own way, it an expression of gratitude for what you've been given.
SHOW GRATITUDE BY LISTENING.
The act of listening is a small act, but a very important one. We're all bombarded on a daily basis with so much noise and information that it's sadly becoming rare to give someone your full, undivided attention. Just think of how many conversations you've had when you're looking at your phone! One way you can show gratitude for others is by giving them 100% of your attention when they're speaking to you. Put your phone down. Try not to let your thoughts drift to what you want to say (or what you're going to be doing right after the conversation ends). This can be challenging, I know, but the effort and energy you put into listening to others with your full attention is such an amazing way to express gratitude. It might not be the first thing you think of when you hear "gratitude," but fully engaging with someone else and letting him/her have a chance to speak openly and without interruption (or distraction) is basically the equivalent of throwing your arms around someone in a big bear hug and saying, "Thank you for being you! I value who you are and what you have to say!" (Also, it's nice to take note of when others are fully listening to you and thank them for their time and attention.)
SHOW GRATITUDE BY APPRECIATING.
Appreciation is a key component of gratitude. The word "appreciation" has two meanings, both of which are essential when it comes to practicing gratitude. First, appreciation means, "the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something." One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to embrace this first definition wholeheartedly. Look around you right now and take note of what good qualities can be spotted all around you (and within you too — self-love!). All too often we're so busy and/or stressed that we fail to see how much beauty and goodness is all around us. From the smile on a loved one's face to the sun streaming in through the window, there are countless moments of goodness around us at any given moment. Even when things are bad, there's something good. Gratitude is finding these moments and sitting with them for a second, letting ourselves bask in their glow and fully knowing that we are lucky to experience them. Secondly, appreciation means, "a full understanding of a situation." This definition leads to my next point...
SHOW GRATITUDE BY ACCEPTING.
... which is, show gratitude by trying your best to fully understand and accept whatever situation you're in. We all face amazing, wonderful, and is-this-my-life? situations as well as unpleasant, horrible, and how-can-this-be-happening? situations. Life has it's ups and downs and the rollercoaster-ness of it all can sometimes cast a shadow on the ability to be grateful. But the struggling to be grateful in good and bad times can be overcome if you choose acceptance over resistance. Rather than wanting a situation to be other than what it is, try accepting it fully and without (too much) judgment. This act of acceptance is its own kind of gratitude, a way of saying, "Okay, Universe/God/Preferred Deity, I see that this situation is happening and I might not love it, but I'm here for it and I'm thankful for that." Or, in really great situations, it's important to accept them with an open, thankful heart, rather than thinking (as some of us negative-prone thinkers do) that the good time will be short-lived and we should't get too used to the happy moments. Accepting the good and the bad, the light and the dark, is a remarkable way to be grateful for every experience.
SHOW GRATITUDE BY EXPRESSING.
Gratitude in and of itself is a wonderful thing, but expressing it is even more amazing. Whenever you feel grateful for someone or something, express it in a physical way. Tell someone at work you're so thankful for her help. Write your father an email after he goes out of his way to help you. Give your mother a big hug after she says something that made you feel empowered. Send a handwritten note to a friend that helped you through a tough time. Say "thank you" to your surgeon after he helped you to heal. Tell your kids you're so grateful to have them in your life. Participate in the 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge and share your thank-worthy moments. Whatever you need to do to express your gratitude, do it. If saying "thanks" isn't part of your daily routine, now is the time to incorporate it into your life. No matter how big or small the act, it's important to express your gratitude for it to others. Not only does it let them know that you're thankful, but it also feels really good to put kind words and actions out into the world. If you need some ideas of how express your gratitude, check out this article I came across: Tiny Buddha's 50 Ways to Show Gratitude. So many awesome ways to express your thankfulness!
As I mentioned earlier, gratitude is an vital but sometimes vague concept. It includes saying "thank you" (which is so important to do!), but it's so much more than that. Gratitude is about giving, listening, appreciating, accepting, and expressing. It's about finding the good in your life, recognizing how fortune you are to have it, and sharing that goodness with those around you. It's about realizing that everything — the good and the bad — is worthwhile, and being open to the idea of appreciating what's happening to you, who you're sharing experiences with, and how these experiences make you feel. You'll probably being seeing a lot of gratitude-related things this month, and, even though it's mostly due to the upcoming holiday, I hope you'll take them to heart and use them as reminders to keep cultivating gratitude every single day. Take it from me — you'll be glad you did. The more grateful you are, the more positive and present you are. And the more positive and present you are, the happier and more fulfilled you'll feel!
There's so much to be grateful for in this life, and one thing I'm particularly grateful for today is sponsors that help bring Positively Present posts to you. Today's sponsor is aquabook! I'm so excited about this product (an awesomely reimagined take on the water bottle), and I can't wait to see it come to life. The aquabook is a reinvented water bottle designed to match your lifestyle. The book-shaped, slim design fits easily in any kind of bag or purse. It’s convenient, customizable, and reusable — making it good for you and for the environment. You can choose your color and even print your favorite picture or statement on the aquabook. The aquabook is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (https://kck.st/1G93hFp). Support this project and help bring the aquabook to life! Be sure to check out #myaquabook on Instagram and follow along on and Twitter @theaquabook.