7 Advanced Gratitude Tips

Improve your gratitude skills with these practical, creative tips.

Posted Nov 28, 2020

Kiy Turk/Unsplash
Source: Kiy Turk/Unsplash

Gratitude can be a quick, powerful way to turn around a negative mood. However, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and struggle to find new things to be grateful for. You can use the following categories as prompts to improve your creativity at being grateful. When you’re grateful for a broader range of everyday experiences, it’ll improve your resilience

1. When you can break a cycle of hurt.

We all have hurts we carry from our earlier experiences. Perhaps a parent made fun of your interests (e.g., a collection you treasured), or made negative comments about your body. Perhaps a supervisor was mean to you when you were a student, or a boss was excessively demanding.

If you’re now in a position of being, say a parent or a supervisor, then you can act in opposite ways to not repeat those patterns. Your insight into your experiences and your power to act differently is something you can be grateful for. 

(Equally, you can be grateful for your ability to repeat a positive pattern, like a kind supervisor.)

2. Anything you can do easily for others.

Sometimes we all tire of requests, e.g., from our kids or email requests. Instead of most closely identifying with your frustration, try focusing on when it’s easy to fulfill a request. For example, if my kid asks me to draw with her, it’s easy for me to say yes. Soon enough, there will be things she wants that are harder for me to help her with.

Or, say it’s easy for you to hold a door for someone, or to give up your seat on a crowded train. You can feel grateful if you have the physical strength to be able to do those things easily. 

3. Ways in which your romantic partner (or someone else you’re close to) is reliable and predictable.

It’s tempting to focus on appreciating splashy gestures. Chaos and uncertainty are very psychologically tough. Try feeling grateful for anything that boring and predictable about how people close to you behave.  

To take it a step further, perhaps there is a behavior that isn’t your favorite, but there is something comforting about how familiar is. For example, your spouse eats the last ice-cream out of a 4-pack and leaves the empty cardboard container in the freezer. 

4. The positive aspects of behaviors that frustrate you.

Say, a colleague is always slow to respond, but once they do, they’re generous with their contributions. A family member tries to be supportive. They never say quite the right thing, and sometimes offend you, but they try harder than 95% of other people.

5. Your own agency and power to act against ways you’ve been pigeonholed.

In the early 90s when I was a preteen, a very popular fad was to identify your “season” which corresponded to colors that would look good on you. I’m a “winter” which means I suit certain colors and not others. This was one of my earliest memories of feeling pigeonholed. I didn’t like it. While there is some overlap between colors I like and “winter” colors, some pretty colors are in other seasons, and the “winter” colors seem boring.

A couple of months ago, I bought some tank tops. The brighter, “winter” appropriate colors I wanted were gone in my size. I bought a bunch of navy and grey versions, but I wanted more color. The only bright color in my size was an egg yolky yellow that, realistically, does not suit me. I bought it. It sat around with the label still on for several months, till I finally wore it. No, the color doesn’t look great on me, but when I layer it with a color that suits me more, I enjoy wearing it. 

It feels empowering not to accept a way I’d been pigeonholed. I can acknowledge it’s not the most flattering color on me, but choose to wear it anyway, and choose not to be pigeonholed.

6. Freedoms you take for granted.

For many of us, Covid-19 has taught us the freedoms we previously took for granted, like gathering in groups and going places with our faces uncovered.

Try thinking beyond this to other freedoms you take for granted, for example, the freedom to change your mind. Or, the freedom to explore outside of parameters you have set for yourself. For example, if you previously decided you don’t like a genre of TV but choose to revisit that, and find a show you love. Or, if you’ve decided you don’t like a particular form of exercise.

Try coming up with five outside-the-box freedoms, like the freedom to change your mind, to hold nuanced views, to like things other people don’t, to ask for what you want, or even the freedom to Google any topic that interests you (within reason.) You might identify some freedoms you don’t exercise to the fullest extent you could, and would like to explore.

7. Draw what you’re grateful for.

If writing or thinking gratitude thoughts feels boring, try drawing a scene that encapsulates what you feel grateful for e.g., exercising at a park, or a family scene. If you have little kids (or a playful partner), this is an exercise you can try together.

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Gratitude exercises can be far more psychologically sophisticated than you might guess. If you get stuck on well-worn, predictable gratitude themes (e.g., your family, your health, food you like, technology, etc.), try venturing beyond this. Use the prompts I’ve given, and/or devise your own novel, creative categories and prompts.