How to Be Thankful

Two Parts:Being Thankful Long-TermBeing Thankful in the Moment

Some people have a strong sense of gratitude, love and appreciation. People who cultivate thankfulness are happier and healthier than those who don't.[1]

Part 1
Being Thankful Long-Term

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    Keep a gratitude journal. Reminding yourself what you have to be grateful for and recording your gratefulness each day helps to cement how thankful you are. It doesn't matter how difficult your life is at the moment, there is always something to be thankful for, some shining light of gratitude. Finding that will help you deal with the other parts of life.[2]
    • Record 3-5 things you're thankful for every single day. These can be things as simple as "the sun was shining" or they can be as big as "my significant other proposed."
    • Spend a little time each day reflecting on the things you're most grateful for, during that day. You may even find that you have more than 5 things you want to record.
    • When you're having a particularly difficult time, it can be beneficial to go back to what you've written previously. If it's a really hard time, find the smallest things that you can be grateful for. For example: if you have a terminal illness it's unlikely you're going to be able to be grateful for that, but you can be grateful for things like, someone else bringing you dinner, a warm bed, your cat snuggling with you. All these little things can make the trauma of the big thing (the illness) more bearable.
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    Turn your thinking around. People who are thankful for the things in their lives aren't living an easier life than you. In fact, many of the people who practicing the most gratitude are the people who have had incredibly difficult things happen to them because they understand that it isn't the situation that's the problem, it's how you think about the situation that makes it easier or more difficult.
    • Use the right words. Using negative language and labeling can make a situation more difficult and make it harder for you to be thankful in general. For example: labeling it "my horrible illness" is going to make it worse than simply saying "the illness that I have." In the second instance not only are you not making the illness part of you, but you are also turning it into neutral language, rather than negative.
    • Bashing yourself and others is going to make you less able to be truly thankful. When you find that you're thinking negatively about yourself or another person, stop and turn that thinking around. For example you think "I am so stupid when it comes to math." Instead, say "I am having some difficulty with this math problem." This re-frames the problem so that the problem isn't you, it's that there is a disconnect between you and this problem and that is something that you can overcome.
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    Practice mindfulness. By being in the moment you are making it impossible for your brain to race ahead and worry or plan for the future, or become bogged down in the past. This is one way of practicing thankfulness because you are immersing yourself in the present and acknowledging and thanking the importance of the "now."
    • Practice mindfulness while you eat. This means, don't read a book, watch t.v. or check your phone. Instead, focus on the food that you're putting into your mouth: is it hot? cold? what is the texture like? the smell? is it sweet or sour or salty?
    • Do this while going for a walk, or simply sitting outside. Notice the color of the sky and shape of the clouds. Notice the color and shape of the trees and the plants. Use your nose to locate any smells, and listen to the wind in the trees, the sound of children playing, the sound of cars as they go past you.
    • Practicing mindfulness is a way of being present to each moment as it happens. It is one technique that can help ease mental health issues like depression or anxiety, because these tend to be caused by fear for the future and concern about the past.[3]
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    Practice meditation. Meditation is another of those incredibly useful ways of dealing with mental health issues and a general sense of malaise in your life. It can also help to foster your thankfulness and gratitude practices.
    • Go somewhere quiet and meditate for 15 minutes each day. Seat yourself comfortably and start to take deep breaths. Your belly will rise and fall with each inhales and exhale. Focus on your breath. When errant thoughts demand your attention acknowledge them and let them go. If you find that you've strayed from the meditation, focus on your breathing again.
    • It can be helpful to set a breathing limit rather than a time limit so you aren't constantly watching the clock. Say something lie "I'll meditate for 50 breaths." If you lose track, that's okay! It's probably time to be done, anyway.
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    Cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Being thankful is actually something that can greatly help make you healthy and keep you healthy. However, it does help to give thankfulness a boost by cultivating a healthy lifestyle for yourself by getting enough sleep, drinking water, and eating in a way that fosters your well-being.
    • Sleep is a huge component to health and to being thankful. While, it's certainly admirable to practice gratitude even during those sleepless, anxiety-fueled times in your life, getting enough sleep can help make thankfulness easier to cultivate. Try to get to sleep before 11:00 p.m. and turn off all electronics (computer, phone, iPod) 30 minutes before bedtime.
    • Get enough water. Since water makes up so much of our systems, it's a necessary component to making sure everything runs smoothly. Try for at least 8 glasses of water each day.
    • Get exercise. Exercise (especially things like cardio) releases happy chemicals like endorphins, which help to regulate your moods and make you feel better. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can be something as simple as going for a run, or putting on some music and dancing for 30 minutes, or doing some yoga.
    • Make sure you're putting food in your body that will help your body run effectively and happily. Go for veggies and fruits (the darker colored, the more nutrients) like kale, red peppers, and bananas; good carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grain, oats; protein like salmon, nuts, lean meats, eggs. Avoid sugar and salt as much as possible. Focus your diet on the best, most healthy parts, with the occasional indulgence.

Part 2
Being Thankful in the Moment

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    Take a break. Sometimes a good way to get you back on track and feeling better is to take a break. You'll need to create things to be grateful for, sometimes, and a break can be a good one.
    • At work (or school, etc.), go for a walk around your building or step outside for 15 minutes to breathe the fresh air. Spend this time musing on how thankful you are for the opportunity to take a break, to stretch your legs, to feel the sun.
    • Sometimes you just really need a vacation. If you have the ability to take one, you should! A vacation and taking a break from your usual activities can give you a greater appreciation for them, as well as recharge you to deal with the things that you're less appreciative of.
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    Tell someone you appreciate them. So often life gets busy and you forget to tell people that they matter, that you've noticed what they do and it means a lot to you. People will remember you more fondly if you thank them. It will cultivate an atmosphere of thankfulness that can spread out gradually.
    • Talk about gratitude with family. Set aside a time, like the evening meal, to talk about the things you were grateful for that day. Let each family member have a few minutes just to discuss what made them thankful.[4]
    • Send a thank you note. it is really amazing what sending just a small thank you note can do. A thank you note acknowledges that they gave you something (time, effort, a gift) that they didn't have to and that you appreciate what they've done. You don't have to write a massive novel thanking them, just a few lines that let them know what they and their gift (a thing, of time, of energy, etc.) meant to you.
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    Give back. Being thankful isn't just about telling people you are thankful, it's also about giving back to your community and to your friends. This doesn't mean that you give back so that everything is even and no one "owes" anyone anything. That isn't how gratitude and thankfulness work.[5]
    • Do something for the people in your life who have helped you. You don't have to tell them that you're doings something for them because they've done something for you. That comes across as self-serving. Instead, when they need an extra hand, you provide it. For example: helping your sister's family clean their house during a really busy season, taking your grandmother to her doctor's appointments, or giving your friend a hand moving into her new place.
    • Do something for people you don't know. Sometimes people do things for you that you can't easily repay (in the sense that you want to thank them and show how much it meant to you). Of course you should thank them, tell them how important their action or gift was. But you can also pay the kindness forward. For example: your professor helps you out in ways that you can never repay (writing letters of recommendation, being a mentor, reading your work), so you instead pay that forward and mentor someone else.
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    Focus on intention. When someone does something nice for you--gives you a gift, brings you a hot meal, offers to read over and edit your thesis--focus on how someone tried to bring something good into your life. Someone gave up their precious time, or money, etc. to do something for you.[6]
    • This focus cultivates an atmosphere of gratitude that is then passed on to other people through your actions and words, especially if you have children.[7]
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    Just say thank you. Speaking the words aloud can help cement the feeling of gratitude in your life. Not only that, but it helps others to know that you are thankful for the things that they have done for you. It can, also, help get you back on track when you're starting to feel put-upon by the world, or anxious.
    • Use the words "thank you" as a sort of prayer or mantra. You can thank specific things, or you can just repeat the words over and over to yourself. For example: if you're on the bus to work, you could start quietly (or in your head) thanking the food that you ate that morning, the rain for watering all the trees, the bus for carrying you promptly to your destination, your rain jacket for keeping the rain off.
    • You should also remember to thank the people you see throughout the day. Thank the barista who makes your coffee, thank the person who held the door for you, thank the customer service person who helped you figure out why your phone wasn't working. Thanking people fosters an atmosphere of gratitude that will extend throughout other people's days, as well.
    • Remember, that it is impossible to be in a state of fear and appreciation. By cultivating gratitude (speaking it aloud) you can do things like ease anger, anxiety (even chronic anxiety), depression, and other health problems.
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    Find the thankfulness in specific events. Sometimes it can be really hard to be thankful in your life. Things like having a significant other break up with you, or make you angry, or when you really dislike your job. These are the times, however, when it is even more important to cultivate gratitude, because that will help you get through the hard times better than getting angry or upset will.
    • To cultivate gratitude for something like a difficult or boring job, make a list of the good things about the job: it gives you money so you can buy food and have a roof over your head, it gives you a chance to take the bus into the city and see the early morning sun, you brought a delicious sandwich for lunch that day. You may have to start really small to find the things to be thankful for, but it will put you in a better mood and when you're starting to get down or depressed about it, pull out that list and start adding to it.
    • For something like a relationship break-up, you should definitely allow yourself time to grieve and be sad (being grateful doesn't mean doing away with emotions like sadness, anger, etc. it simply means making them more manageable). After you've given yourself time to grieve, make a list of the things that you learned or are grateful for from the relationship (you learned you don't want to be a morning person, you learned how to compromise, etc.) and then what you are thankful for about the relationship being over (now you can leave your stuff wherever you want, now you can eat blueberries because your ex was allergic, etc.).
    • Basically, you can apply your thankfulness technique to any situation. There is always something to be thankful for, even if it's a very small thing (the sun is shining, etc.). Finding those things and acknowledging them can help you to lead a more fulfilled and content life.


  • Get a gratitude buddy, someone with whom you can talk over the things you're grateful for and who will hold you accountable when you go down the slippery slope of complaining about things.
  • Smile and stay positive.
  • Appreciate little things. Enjoy the nature around you, and the people around you.


  • Remember, sometimes you will have bad days, where you're grumpy and dislike everything. That's okay. Don't beat yourself up because you aren't constantly floating along in a bubble of gratitude. That may be the goal, but no one's yet reached it.
  • Just because you learn to be thankful doesn't mean that bad things won't happen, or that you won't be affected by the things that do happen. It can simply help to make the things that happen easier to deal with and not as taxing for your mental health.

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