Portrait of a Thoughtful Young Woman

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October 29, 2022 — 9:31 AM

Gratitude is a habit, and a powerful one at that. It takes time and discipline to get accustomed to, and much like the things we take for granted, its impact in somebody’s life usually shows itself through ways that are easily overlooked—from really taking the time to savour each fleeting moment with a loved one to being more appreciative of the simplest joys. 

Clinical psychologist and reality therapy instructor Katrina Vandenbroeck, M.S., says gratitude has a strong role in improving our mental health. “It allows our brain to develop connections that have a positive effect on our mental health and overall well-being,” she tells mbg. “When you are grateful, you focus on what is and not on what isn’t or what should have or could have been. This is very powerful and valuable because you are brought back to the present moment—the only point in time that is within our full control.”

If you’re looking to develop a deeper sense of gratitude, here’s a list of things to be grateful for to help you get started in your practice:

Some big things to be grateful for in your life:

Being alive is a gift. You’re still breathing despite all the hardships that have come your way, and that’s something you can be truly proud of.

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Life is so much easier to bear with the loving presence of others, whether that’s your parents, siblings, romantic partners, friends, or children. Family could also be those chosen few that complete your constellation. Make sure to cherish each one.     

Whatever the nature, love can be found even in the most unexpected places. Don’t be afraid to welcome it when it comes to you. Be generous with it when your heart is overflowing with it.

The loyalty and quiet companionship of a pet that loves you no matter who and what you are, are some of the best things you can experience in life. The more you have, the merrier.

Thank your body for doing its absolute best to be a vessel that keeps your soul fed. Physical and mental well-being come with the opportunity to enjoy many things in life.

Money, however much you have

There’s truth to money being a real source of happiness. It gives you access to many comforts, security, and pleasures.

Like love, peace comes in many forms. Whether it’s a quiet mind or a loving community you’re a part of, acknowledge and treasure its existence in your life.

It’s so easy to take the food you eat everyday for granted. It fuels you for your daily activities and reinvigorates your soul if it’s a comfort dish. Without proper nourishment, you wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things. 

Many of the comforts we enjoy now, such as drinkable water, clean air, and the solid foundation on which our homes are built, are being held together by the mere existence of nature. Being grateful for these things helps develop a deeper sense of accountability in all of us in taking care of the environment. 

Having a roof over your head is such a huge blessing. Not everyone has a place to call their own when safety and belongingness matter so much in life. 

There’s much to be said about the healing properties of laughter. Be grateful when you experience it and be glad each time you make someone else do the same.

The world is a cruel place, but kindness sprouts everywhere it’s planted. Knowing this restores our faith in humanity and inspires us to be better people. If someone had it in their heart to help you overcome a difficult time, let this be enough to stir up gratitude in you.

Not everyone in the world enjoys the same liberties and privileges as you. Enjoy the freedom that you have and, most importantly, be responsible with it. 

Having a source of income that sustains all your needs, even if it’s not the job you want, is a big deal especially during these trying times. With security comes peace of mind.

The opportunity to seek higher education and advance yourself is a huge privilege. Learn everything that you can and don’t be stingy when sharing your wisdom. 

Small things to be grateful for everyday:

  • Waking up before your alarm goes off and being able to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep.
  • Being able to have a hearty meal before leaving for school or work.
  • Your dog running to greet you after a long, tiring day.
  • Hearing your cat’s loud purrs as it’s curled up on your lap.
  • Discovering a new recipe you’d like to try and realizing you have all the ingredients you need to make it in the fridge.
  • Free wifi in public spaces.
  • Being held or embraced by someone when you’re going through a difficult time.
  • Wrapping yourself in a blanket and enjoying a cup of warm coffee when it’s cold and rainy out.
  • Finding some money in a pair of jeans you haven’t worn lately.
  • Plans getting canceled when you didn’t want to go anyway.
  • Random acts of kindness from strangers.
  • Moments when you laugh so hard you end up rolling on the floor, crying.
  • Having a car to drive instead of commuting.
  • Hearing your favorite song play at the supermarket while you’re shopping.
  • Receiving a compliment from someone you admire.
  • When your skin and hair look great on the same day.
  • Long weekends spent on a retreat.
  • Being able to squeeze in an afternoon nap.
  • Having extra money to treat yourself or others.
  • A full 8 hours of sleep.
  • Experiencing no traffic on a weekday.
  • Having access to healthcare facilities.
  • Wearing clothes fresh out of the dryer.
  • Finding a comfortable window seat at a restaurant or café.
  • Parking space opening up once you arrive at the lot.
  • Finding something that’s been missing for quite some time while cleaning.
  • Traveling without restrictions.
  • Random bursts of creativity.
  • Finally mastering a dance move or yoga pose you’ve been practicing.
  • Seeing something from a new perspective.

Things to be grateful for in your relationships: 

  • Receiving a heartwarming text. 
  • Someone showing up early because they respect your time.
  • Being cared for when you’re ill.
  • Receiving unexpected gifts just because you crossed their mind.
  • A friend actively making an effort to make amends.
  • Healthy competition with your coworkers.
  • Having warm food sent to you because you forget to eat sometimes. 
  • Getting a shoulder rub or back massage after a tiring day.
  • Getting a surprise visit just because they’re in your area.
  • Hearing someone say they’re proud of you.
  • Someone making a curated playlist just for you.
  • Communicating through memes, because life’s too short to be serious all the time.
  • Comfortable silences.
  • Coming home to your most favorite person in the world.
  • Being given financial aid when you really need it.
  • Someone supporting your dreams and encouraging you to go for them.
  • Being lovingly perceived while you’re not looking.
  • Having someone’s full attention while you’re talking about something you love. 
  • Hearing someone say “I love you” while holding your hand.
  • Making plans for the future.
  • Being invited to group functions.
  • Hearing a parent apologize for their wrongs. 
  • Someone trusting you enough to come out to you about their sexual identity.
  • Being given early access to a piece of literature or art they’re working on. 
  • A compassionate boss.
  • A landlord who is generous with extensions when you’re in a pinch.
  • Peers that inspire you to make better life decisions.
  • Being a part of a group that’s making a difference within your community.
  • Having a solid support group.
  • A grandparent who loves to check in on you from time to time.
  • A sibling you can also call your best friend.

Things to be grateful for in yourself: 

  • Getting out of bed even though it’s hard.
  • Making an effort to deal with trauma and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Forgiving those who have wronged you and working to move on with your life.
  • Still finding it in yourself to love and trust other people despite multiple heartbreaks.
  • Having the courage to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Opening your mind to brand new perspectives even though you don’t necessarily agree with them.
  • Being unashamed of your hobbies.
  • The skills you have now that you worked so hard to gain.
  • The way you go out of your way to show up for the people you love.
  • Allowing yourself to befriend your inner child.
  • Carrying yourself through college.
  • Being able to pay a debt in full.
  • Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Your little quirks that make you unique.
  • Being able to give back to the community.
  • Your big heart.
  • The way you try to be more understanding of people.
  • Being forgiving of yourself when things don’t go as planned.
  • All the times you thought you’ve lost hope but pulled through.
  • Recovering from an illness.
  • Achieving your dreams.
  • When you move people with your work.
  • Your insecurities, which teach you self-love and acceptance.
  • Your self-discipline when it comes to your finances.
  • Your ability to make people smile.
  • Your kindness to strangers.
  • Your unwavering loyalty to your loved ones.
  • The way you enjoy your own company.
  • Being able to hold back judgment when it’s not needed.
  • Your love for learning. 

Unique things to be grateful for: 

  • Gas station toilets that flush properly and have toilet paper.
  • Buying a new pen that glides beautifully on the first use.
  • The smell of fresh linens and clean laundry.
  • Dancing in the rain.
  • Quiet mornings while the sun is still rising.
  • Having someone volunteer to grill your meat for you at a Korean BBQ.
  • Your enemies, for teaching you forgiveness and self-control.
  • Having access to rare books at your local library.
  • Getting a window seat on your flight.
  • Buying a pair of sneakers online that fit you just right when it arrives.
  • Free samples at the supermarket.
  • Sudden rain when it’s been hot all day long.
  • Receiving a compliment on your outfit while waiting for your coffee at the café. 
  • Walking barefoot on the shore.
  • Taking a hot shower after a stressful day.
  • Getting a good bargain on something you’ve had your eyes on for a long time.
  • The smell of hot cocoa during the holidays.
  • Kayaking on a peaceful lake. 
  • Watching the sunset with a loved one. 
  • Walking home while listening to your favorite music.
  • Long weekends.
  • Alfresco dining with close friends.
  • Your celebrity crush being active on social media.
  • Reaching the mountaintop after a long hike.
  • Discovering a cool new hang-out spot on your way to work.
  • Clear skies while you’re enjoying a rooftop view.
  • Being the only person watching at the movie theater.
  • A good movie playing on TV.
  • Being left alone while shopping at a department store.
  • Instructional guides with lots of photos.

Things to be grateful for in the world: 

  • Freedom of expression
  • New scientific discoveries
  • Women’s rights movements
  • The rehabilitation of polluted rivers and lakes
  • Youth leaders inspiring social change
  • The de-stigmatization of mental illness
  • Hybrid work arrangements and flexible work schedules being more widely practiced
  • Visa-free travel destinations
  • Marriage equality
  • The prioritization of physical and mental well-being in the workplace
  • More inclusivity in public spaces
  • New parents working hard to break generational trauma
  • Farmers and craftsmen
  • Climate activists
  • Increasing availability of eco-friendly alternatives
  • Animal rights movements
  • More cultural diversity in TV shows and movies around the globe
  • Technological advancements
  • The modernization of educational institutions
  • Free learning
  • The increase of women in elective office
  • Some semblance of normalcy since COVID-19 first arrived
  • The return of world tours
  • Families reuniting as borders open up
  • The embrace of alternative medicines
  • Movements against racial discrimination
  • Human rights movements
  • Anti-bullying campaigns
  • Economies slowly rising from the effects of the pandemic

The benefits of gratitude.

“A grateful mind will allow you to be less stressed and feel more positive emotions,” licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified neurotherapist Catherine Jackson tells mbg. 

From reducing stress to improving mental health, several studies have shown that making space for appreciation on a regular basis can positively affect your life both physically and emotionally. For example, one study found more grateful people tend to report better physical health, while another study suggests that honing a more grateful mentality could even help lower the risk of disease later in life.

Here’s a more detailed list of the benefits of gratitude to convince you to start practicing gratitude today. 

How to start a gratitude practice:

“The more your brain is able to practise gratitude, the smoother and stronger the connections will become for it to spot moments of gratitude,” says Vandenbroeck.

If you’re not sure where or how to begin, she recommends trying out the following:

  • Notice what stimulates your senses in the present moment. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you taste? What can you touch? There’s so much to be grateful for around us and, instead of focusing on the “buts” and “what if’s,” asking yourself these questions can help expand your perspective. You can start with the smallest things and allow your thoughts to grow in magnitude at its own pace as you become more comfortable with the practice. 
  • Incorporate gratitude into your daily routine. Make it a habit to inject gratitude in activities as simple as your daily commute to and from work or even while taking a bath. If you like journaling, you can begin an entry by asking yourself what made you feel grateful during the day. What matters is that you carve out the time to practice this when you can. 

It’s never too late to practice being more grateful. The sooner you start on this journey, the better the rewards you reap in the long run. To make it more fun, you can try keeping a gratitude jar or gratitude journal, or you can share this experience with other people by taking the time to appreciate them. Remember, consistency is key.

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