Gratitude tool

There is a very simple tool that can be used to help one to be happy, and that is the act of being “grateful”. Studies have shown that being thankful (i.e. gratitude) helps to improve one’s mental health. The gratitude tool is about developing a habit of being grateful.

Often, especially when things are not great, it is easy to think that there is nothing to be grateful for. Perhaps this is because our minds tend to ignore positive aspects of our lives and instead, focus only on negativity. When one looks for things to be grateful for, one should not only focus on “big” things. While of course, one should not ignore big things, it is also important to actively look for “small” things as well. Let me give you an example. Imagine that a person, who we will call Mark, has severe arthritis that limits his mobility and makes it difficult for him to venture out of his house. However, on this day, he does manage to go for a short walk up and down the street he lives in. That evening, as part of the “gratitude tool” that he uses every day, Mark thinks of things to be grateful for. He tells himself, “Today I am grateful that I was able to walk up and down my street and was able to enjoy the outdoors a little bit. Another thing that I am grateful for is the phone call that my friend Sam made to me. It was great chatting with him and it made me feel better.”

As you may have noticed in the example, the things that one can be grateful for don’t have to be major. Just a few everyday things can work as well. Initially, one may need to spend some extra effort looking for things to be grateful for, as one’s mind may have gotten used to ignoring such things. One could even choose very simple things like being grateful for the person smiling at you at the supermarket.

When using the gratitude tool, try to be a bit creative. One doesn’t have to always choose the same things every day, such as, “I am grateful for my loving family.” If one keeps saying the same things every day (e.g. loving family), then one’s mind may not “learn” to look for things to be grateful for. Try to look for different small things every day to be grateful for.

However, when looking for things to be grateful for, there are a few things you need to be careful about. One should not excessively focus on being grateful to people who one may feel under obligation to, either emotionally or materially (e.g. someone who has lent one money). I am not saying that one should not acknowledge such persons. But excessively doing so may bring one’s mood down, as one may feel constantly indebted to those people and develop a sense of being helpless. It’s also important to not let the gratitude tool be about being happy about others’ misfortunes. (e.g. “At least I am not as poor as my neighbour, Mary.”). That would make the gratitude tool a negative exercise. Rather, one should just be grateful for good things that have happened to oneself without comparing them to those less fortunate than oneself. 

When using the gratitude tool, most people will use their “inner voice” to express their gratitude. However, some might find it useful to write these thoughts in a notebook or diary (“gratitude journal”). At times, one might even be able to directly express gratitude to someone (e.g. “Thank you for visiting me, you made me feel better.”)

Remembering to be grateful can be a challenge and one may need to develop a way of reminding oneself to be grateful. Perhaps, for example, one can put a daily reminder on one’s phone diary, to remind oneself every day, at a convenient time, to be grateful, perhaps with a screen message, “Grateful Tool time!”. Another approach can be to just make it a habit at an easy to remember time of the day, such as when getting into bed in the evening. 

As one regularly uses the gratitude tool, one will find that one’s mind will look at the world in a less negative manner.

By the way, I am very grateful that you are visiting this website! I feel thankful that I have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

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