Make Today Matter: Practical Ways to Express Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

On some Thanksgivings, I’ve been really bad at counting my blessings. November is supposed to be the Month for Giving Thanks, but sometimes I’ve felt like opting out of the mandatory “Tell us what you’re grateful for since today’s Thanksgiving.”

Can forced gratitude actually make you feel better about your life? I’m going to argue that “intentional gratitude” can.

According to Dale Carnegie, “By talking to yourself about the things you have to be grateful for, you can fill your mind with thoughts that soar and sing.”

“Talking to yourself” about your blessings could mean that you verbalize a positive phrase when you wake up in the morning. Some people develop a personal mantra that they repeat every day, such as “I am strong and capable” or “I can make a difference today.”

You could also write a quote or an inspirational phrase on a piece of paper, then attach it to the bathroom mirror. That way, you’ll see it at least twice a day—when you get up in the morning and when you get ready for bed at night.

One way that I’ve practiced intentional gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Almost 20 years ago, I watched an episode of Oprah, where Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah talked about how they both enjoyed keeping gratitude journals. Since then, I’ve tried to write down 5 things a day that I’m grateful for. This has helped me to recognize my blessings, even on the hardest of days.

Maya Angelou once said, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

Giving cheerfully might mean taking a day to make someone else’s life better: babysitting for a neighbor, raising money for a worthy cause, taking someone to a doctor’s appointment, opening up your home for a community event, or listening to a friend when he or she is going through a rough time. You’ll feel blessed as you see the difference you make.

Accepting gratefully is also important because it shows others that their time, efforts, and gifts are valuable to you. Sometimes it might feel uncomfortable to accept a compliment or a favor, but when you allow yourself to gratefully receive, you draw positivity into your life, and you let others know that they’ve made a difference to you.

There will be hard times throughout life, but even dark days can have bright moments: a connection with someone else, beauty in nature, a life lesson, or an opportunity to make a difference. Whenever you practice intentional gratitude, you’re taking the time to recognize these bright moments. They can add color to your life and give warmth to the people around you.

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