4 Steps to Gratitude in Happy Times or Sad Ones

A basketful of thank you notes can become your flowers.

Posted Nov 07, 2011

Yale Digital Commons, Bardone
Source: Yale Digital Commons, Bardone

In the world of gratitude, there is a glitch. It is easy to be grateful when the sun is shining, when our dreams are coming true, when the world seems to be unfolding at our feet. But the challenge of gratitude comes with a glitch. Are we grateful when we prick our finger on the thorn of a rose? When our perfect plan goes awry? When all doors seem to be closing on us? When we lose at love?

How can we be grateful during sad times as well as happy ones? Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at University of California at Davis, tells me: "Gratitude is an attitude, not a feeling that can be easily willed."

Even if you are not satisfied with your life as it is today, he pointed out, "If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. It is like improving your posture and as a result becoming more energetic and self-confident."

This is the same lesson expressed in 365 Thank Yous - by John Kralik. Before discovering the power of "thank you," the man who would become a Superior Court Judge in California not long after embracing gratitude was living in one room, experiencing strained relationships, and watching his law practice fall on hard times.

At this low point, it was during a walk in the Echo Mountains of Pasadena, California that he sensed "a growing awareness, a voice within." What he heard was his: "Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want." The moment changed his life.

Four step gratitude plan for good times and bad

Here is a simple plan to open the door to more happiness in your life.

Smiles: Begin and end your day with a smile. What if you don't feel like smiling? Find something that will bring a smile to your face. Look through a magazine until you find a picture that helps you bubble over with laughter. Smile at someone you love, even if they have been hurtful to you. How? By recalling a happy moment the two of you shared.

Gratitude visits: Make an unexpected visit to someone who needs you. And if you cannot go in person, send a little thought gift.

The words "Thank you." So often during the day we take little kindnesses for granted. Someone holds the elevator for us or opens a door. A person in line sees we have only two items and lets us get ahead. How many times have you seen this happen and the person who received the gracious gesture simply nods his or her head and goes back to talking on a cell phone rather than saying the words "thank you."

Thank you notes: Find a place in your home to turn a table into a gratitude desk. 

  • Fill a basket with stationary, note cards, and even birthday cards.
  • Make certain to have at least two working pens in the basket.
  • Add at least one book of stamps.
  • Buy a journal in which you make a note to yourself of someone who deserves a thank you note and date it. When you send out that note, add that date as well. What you will often see is that too much time elapses from the day in which you said to yourself "I should write that person a note" and the day you actually get to write it, stamp it, and get it into the mail.And NO email does not have the same power.

It was through thank-you notes that Kralik turned his life around. He decided to write his son a thank you note for a special gift, but realized that he did not know the address.

Kralik said to me: "We get so wrapped up in the day-to-day that we lose touch. I decided to hand write a note rather than send him one that was machine created. When someone receives a hand-written note they know it came from a person who evaluated their decision to write. Hand writing for me is greater admissible evidence of concern."

Their relationship almost immediately changed. And it works in love relationships as well: Revitalize Your Love Life with a Three Day Gratitude Plan

Bardone's Flowers, Gift of Harold Hugo, Yale Digital Commons

Copyright 2011 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

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