The Power of Gratitude

November 23, 2009

I’ve been speaking and writing about gratitude for almost ten years now – and I’m still amazed at how challenging it can be for me to focus on what I’m grateful for at times (especially when I’m feeling sorry for myself or complaining). I’m also blown away by how powerful and transformative gratitude is when we choose to pay attention to it, experience it, and express it.

I met a man recently who had been in prison for almost thirty years. When he was asked what he appreciated most about being out of jail he said, “Seeing the stars, listening to children laugh, and hearing dogs bark.” Wow – think of all of the simple things we take for granted that we could choose to be grateful for each day.

What are you grateful for? How often do you ask yourself and others this powerful question? Sadly, many of us don’t take the time to ask or answer this question on a regular basis – especially in the midst of these difficult times.

Hopefully, you and your family will spend some time acknowledging what you’re grateful for this week on Thanksgiving and over the next few weeks during the holiday season. However, focusing on gratitude is something that we can do all the time, not just on special occasions or during the holidays.

There are many reasons (i.e. excuses) we have for not focusing on what we’re grateful for:

– We’re too busy and stressed out

– We’re waiting for things to work out “perfectly” (which they almost never do)

– We don’t want to brag (especially these days with lots of people going through tough times)

– We focus on what needs improvement, the many things we still have to get done, and all of the “bad stuff” in our lives, about others, and in the world

– We feel funny about it or get embarrassed expressing our appreciation

While all of these “reasons” make sense and are understandable, they simply and sadly get in our way of tapping into one of the most powerful emotions and states of beings we have access to the power of gratitude.

I saw Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, on Larry King Live a few years ago. He said that gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.

Gratitude not only makes us feel good, it’s also one of the greatest attractors of abundance, love, peace, success, health, connection, and more. The more we focus on what we already have, the wonderful aspects of our lives, and what we appreciate; the more we end up having to be grateful for.

Stop for a moment right now and think about some of the things that you’re grateful for in your own life. Make a list – either in your head or on paper. We each have so much. When we take the time to acknowledge our many blessings, we utilize the power of gratitude in a way that benefits us and those around us in a profound way.

Create gratitude practices

We can expand our capacity for gratitude in our lives by creating simple and genuine practices. It doesn’t really matter what we do or how we do it, just that we come up with easy and meaningful ways to focus on what we’re grateful for all the time. Below is a short list of some different possible gratitude practices. Pick one, use many, or choose something else:

– Write cards or emails expressing your gratitude for others – and do this for no specific reason or occasion

– Meditate/pray and focus on what you’re grateful for

– Have everyone at the dinner table share something they’re grateful before you eat (or go around in the car or other times you’re together with your family and play this “grateful game”)

– Ask people what they’re grateful for (and/or ask this question as part of your outgoing voice mail message)

– Use a “gratitude journal” and write in it regularly

While so many of us understand and know about the power of gratitude, it’s the practice and expression of it that really has impact. When we take the time to think about, feel, and express our gratitude and appreciation for life, others, and ourselves – we can literally transform our lives and relationships in a beautiful way.

What are you grateful for right now? How can you expand your capacity for gratitude in your life – for Thanksgiving and in general? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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  1. Even though the last two years have been a great trial for me, make that the last 8, I’ve only been gone the last 14 months, I still have the love of my children, both 21 and 25, two sons. My youngest diagnosed with bipolar two years ago, my other son, college grad and no work, me a breast cancer survivor, but, but, but, we have food on the table that we share with Dad. My in laws still love me. We give thanks. I give thanks I have a social service job I love and gives me satisfaction every single day.
    I give thanks for the little cottage I found in Walnut Creek, that I can afford, that brings me all manner of wild life which I feed and enjoy watching. I’m grateful for wonderful friends that have made the transitions in my life tolerable and less lonely.
    I give thanks to a power greater than myself for always carrying me when I feel like giving up.
    I am truly grateful for all of it when I bother to be grateful. So easy to wallow.
    I hear stories daily that make mine pale in comparison. I am blessed even through hardship.

  2. Download a free e-book with 30 daily gratitude exercises at One I learned from Mike and have done for several years. Change your voice mail message to ask your caller to leave something they appreciate in their life right now. It is amazing how many people are excited to leave what they appreciate. A lift to their day and to mine!

  3. Mike, I’m grateful to you for sharing your idea of “pay it forward” with appreciation. We played “pay it forward” after our Thanksgiving dinner and everyone got a chance to express their appreciation for different people and to be appreciated by someone else. Even my 6-year old granddaughter said she appreciated her grandpa teaching her how to draw and do magic. It was a memorable and satisfying way to end our celebration.
    With gratitude, Donne

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