Being grateful is hard, damn it. Don’t we deserve everything we get and more? Aren’t we entitled to clean water, iPhones, medicine, ten thousand TV channels, Tinder, Netflix, automobiles, internet, and the support of people around us?
I’ve been actively practicing gratitude for almost a decade and sometimes it can be difficult to remain grateful even on the best of days. But I’ve learned a few things that can make being grateful much easier.
You don’t need to be Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, or Keanu Reeves to be a grateful person. You can just follow these 10 easy ways to be more grateful. They’ve worked for me so I’m sure they’ll work for you.
1. Write thank-you letters… then get super drunk and send them
Just the act of writing a small thank you letter to someone can release big bursts of oxytocin (the cuddle drug) and make you feel positive and happy. You don’t even have to send the letter. Just writing out the reasons why someone has made your life better is enough to make you feel warm inside.
It is better if you actually DO send the letter.
Letting another person know how grateful you are for them is one of the easiest ways to brighten up someone’s day. People don’t hear genuine thanks enough. Some people hear it so little that you might even make their entire year just by expressing it.
The problem is it can be scary to tell someone how you feel about them. It takes practice and courage to show thanks.
The solution? Write out the letter. Then getting super drunk and send it to them. That way you don’t have to be face-to-face and make things all awkward.
2. Do small acts of kindness for strangers you won’t even meet
In my gym in Tokyo, you have to use special bathroom slippers to use the toilet. There are a bunch of slippers lined up at the bathroom entrance.
Sometimes the slippers are facing away from you so all you have to do is slip straight into them and walk into the bathroom. This means that the last person to use those slippers actually had to TURN AROUND before they exited the bathroom. They had to walk backwards out of the bathroom and go out of their way to ensure the slippers were easy to put on for the next person.
Sometimes the slippers have the toes pointed to you. This makes it a pain in the ass to put them on. You could kick them around to face you. Or you could touch them and swap them the right way (yuck). Or you could walk into the bathroom in your socks and put them on (yuck).
Basically… because someone else was lazy, you have to suffer a small inconvenience.
I always make sure that I leave the slippers in a way that makes them super easy for the next guy to put on.
I know this sounds sad and pathetic and like I’m overanalysing this tiny thing but…
Doing small acts of kindness for random strangers you won’t even meet is a great way to cultivate gratitude.
If you go out of your way to do nice things (even small ones… especially small ones), you are more likely to notice when others do those same acts of kindness for you.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
The 5 Minute Journal is the best and easiest journal for cultivating more gratitude.
It’s a beautiful journal that asks for just a few minutes of your time at the beginning and end of each day and focuses your mind on the good things in life by asking you to…
- List 3 things you are grateful for
- List 3 ways you can make the day great
- List 3 amazing things that happened in your day
4. Write 3 things you’re grateful for on a piece of paper and keep them in a bowl… read them in one sitting at the end of the year
I didn’t do this for a whole year. I did this for about 4-5 months during my time living in Vienna this year. I stored them all up but, because I move a lot, I didn’t want to carry pieces of paper that detailed potentially embarrassing things I’m grateful for.
So I read them all in one sitting before I came to Japan.
It. Was. AWESOME. I was buzzing for about a week.
Keep track of stuff you appreciate every single day and then look back at all that stuff in one sitting. You’ll immediately see the value of being grateful.
Tip: try and make the things you’re grateful for different every day. And don’t choose the easy options. Really try to swear and see the small good things that fill your life.
If you can appreciate the small good things, you’ll really appreciate the big good things.
5. Once a month, pick 1 person to hand write a letter of gratitude to
It can be a teacher, a parent, a famous person you look up to, anyone.
The key is to handwrite it. If you have a problem delivering it, see number 1.
This will feel awkward at first but soon it will feel like second nature and you’ll look forward to writing these letters. In fact, after writing just one letter, I guarantee it will feel like you took a small dose of oxycodone.
6. Once a week, email someone and express gratitude
It doesn’t have to be an email. Leaving a thoughtful comment on a social media page works well too. I also like to comment on articles that I enjoyed and thank the person for writing them.
This is just another small way to rewire your brain so that you notice the good things.
It’s also super easy to be selfish on the internet.
We just consume, consume, consume. Like greedy goblins. We give no thought to the person who created the content we’re consuming.
You see this most often in the YouTube comment section. Jeez, that place is a cesspool of racism, sexism, and just plain assholery. It is rare to see people actually acknowledge the human on the other side of the screen and let them know they are appreciated. But it makes all the difference when you do.
7. Promote people who give value and publicly thank them so others can find them
With things like Twitter and Facebook, this is super easy.
Is there an obscure author who has moved you recently? Rave about them online and thank them. Let other people know exactly why they are awesome.
If you have a website, write about people you admire. Especially if those people don’t typically get a lot of praise.
It’s often easier to write about the people that everybody already knows. That’s because they’ve been proven to be popular. You take no “risk” when you promote them.
But what about the people who are on the way up? Take a chance and share the love. That person will remember you. I guarantee it.
8. Help 1 person a day and expect nothing in return
Helping someone might mean….
- Giving advice
- Making someone smile
- Solving someone’s problem
- Giving a genuine compliment
- Using your resources to improve someone else’s situation
If you get into the habit of doing this every day for other people, you will notice it and appreciate it when it happens to you. You’ll also be more likely to have nice stuff happen to you. I know I said “expect nothing in return”. That’s still true. You shouldn’t have any ulterior motive. But it’s a fact. Do nice things and nice things happen. Crazy.
9. Have a gift budget and give gifts freely
Again, have no expectations. You’re not doing this to get a gift back. The only gift you want is to make someone else happy.
Having a “gift fund” is a great way to ensure you do buy thoughtful things for other people on a routine basis. Even it’s just $1 a month. Save some cash so you can spend on other people. You could cut your caffeine consumption in half and have a gift fund of $20 a month. That’s a book and a chocolate bar for two lucky people every single month.
What would your life look like if you gave two people small thoughtful gifts each month?
What kind of person would you be?
Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it, doesn’t it? Now go and do it!
10. Practice making your face light up
Making your “face light up” when you see your loved ones can actually be pretty hard. But practice it on a daily basis and you will soon cultivate a deep sense of gratitude.
Toni Morrison explains it beautifully: