An Attitude of Gratitude
Over a decade ago (yeesh!), I was walking along the campus drive with the rest of my freshman floor at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).
“You know, it’s really hot out here and I don’t know why we have to do this,” I said the girl next to me.
“I know!” she replied. “And all of these bugs! This is ridiculous.” This sparked a lengthy conversation, leading to lunches together, classes, graduation, and an insanely close connection.
14 years later, she is still very much a sister to me and, if it wasn’t for that interaction where we connected based on a shared struggle/complaint, we never would’ve become friends. We could all spend hours talking to each other about all the terrible things that have happened over the course of the year. In fact, we actually form emotional bonds with folks based on negative jokes and gripes (Pouthier, 2017).
As easy as it may be to find things to complain about, what if we were intentional in finding things for which we can be grateful? The presence of gratitude can mean less symptoms of depression and anxiety in the population (Petrocchi & Couyoumdjian, 2015). When we’re able to practice gratitude, it increases our social support, ability to cope with difficulties, and improves our life satisfaction (Lin, 2015). It can even help us build healthy relationships and strengthen relationships that are already present (Bartlett et al., 2010).
This year, let’s resolve to take on an attitude of gratitude to boost our mood, engage in self-care, and improve our relationships. You can start with some of these practices to jumpstart your gratitude (yes, I’ve tried most of them):
Create a gratitude jar: I’ve done this one and it actually works. Grab a big mason jar (I used an empty pickle jar) or a shoe box and some sticky post-its. Challenge yourself to write one thing you’re grateful for each day on a sticky post-it. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It can be gratitude that someone held a door for you, that you made it another day without getting sick, or that you woke up that morning. I like to fold the post-it closed and, at the end of the year, go through all of the post-its and remember all 365 things I was grateful for.
Thank people in the moment: This is one we don’t do enough of. Sometimes, people help us and we may offer a polite, “thanks,” but it’s missing that feeling of gratitude. Identify a list of people that you would like to thank and reach out to them with a text or a phone call, letting them know how much you appreciate them. Not only does this increase your gratitude, but it might be the boost that person needs to make it through the day.
Write a letter of gratitude: Sometimes, we can’t always directly thank people in the moment. Maybe you’re grateful for your third-grade teacher but you’re not sure how you could thank them in person. Perhaps you’re grateful to a family member who has passed away, but you still want to show gratitude. How about someone that you aren’t ready to thank in person? Write them a letter letting them know what you appreciate about them, the positive impact they had on you, and how it has changed your present and future. The best part about this is that you don’t have to send it! You can write the letter, express your gratitude, and put the letter wherever you like.
Gratitude Journal: Another great idea is to take some time to create a gratitude journal. You can keep it loose and write a few sentences each day about something or someone you are grateful for. For folks who like prompts, Pinterest has a TON of lists and prompts that can help you identify moments of gratitude.
Create a gratitude collage: For all my crafty folks out there, consider leaning into your artistic side and creating a collage that expresses gratitude. You can use pictures, new clippings, magazine pages, markers, anything you want to express yourself. This is also an excuse to go to the craft store (you’re welcome).
Do a gratitude challenge: Commit to a gratitude challenge! I had
a friend from college who decided to post 1 thing she was grateful for on Instagram every day for a year (and she stuck with it!). You can find lists online of 7-day, 30-day, and year-long gratitude challenges.
It may be difficult at first to find things to be grateful for but, if you stick with some of these practices, you might notice it gets easier each day to find moments of gratitude. It isn’t joy that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. Be well and know that we are grateful for all of you!
Bartlett, M.Y, Condon, P., Cruz, J., Bauman, J., & Desteno, D. (2010). Gratitude: Prompting behaviors that build relationships. Journal of Cognition and Emotion, 26(1), 2-13. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2011.561297.
Lin, C.C. (2015) Impact of gratitude on resource development and emotional well-being. Jounral of Social Behavior and Personality, 43(3), 493-504. https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2015.43.3.493
Nicola Petrocchi & Alessandro Couyoumdjian (2015): The impact of gratitude on depression and anxiety: the mediating role of criticizing, attacking, and reassuring the self, Self and Identity, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1095794
Pouthier, V. (2017). Griping and joking as identification rituals and tools for engagement in cross-boundary team meetings. Organization Studies, 38(6), 753–774. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840616685358