An attitude of gratitude is associated with benefits including increased positivity, happiness, and reduced stress and anxiety. Finding ways to be thankful in everyday life for everyday things is an interesting way to stave off worrying. But, what does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude?
Is it something we all have within us or are we able to acquire it through practice? Luckily, or.. thankfully…we can learn, cultivate, and maintain an attitude of gratitude. We can also draw upon it as needed to cope through stressful life moments.
What Does it Mean to Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Overall, a person’s attitude refers to their own personal appraisal of something being either generally positive or negative. We use our attitudes to inform and guide our behaviors throughout various situations we encounter.
Specifically, an attitude of gratitude means approaching situations with an outlook of appreciation, thankfulness, and gratefulness. You can be grateful for things you observe, receive or experience as pleasing and nice.
Generally, an attitude of gratitude is accompanied by pleasant and happy emotions. For example, you may feel grateful if a friend loans you their umbrella during an unexpected rainstorm. You may feel appreciative to experience the cool refreshment of an iced beverage on a smoldering, hot summer day.
It’s not difficult to imagine feeling appreciative in scenarios like this. But, what does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude when things aren’t going so well? When things are unpredictable, worrisome, cause stress, or feelings of defeat and fear?
The attitude of gratitude meaning is still the same. However, to hold appreciation during difficult moments requires more conscious effort and intention. It requires you to choose to look at things through a positive lens and positive mindset.
How to Have an Attitude of Gratitude in Times of Uncertainty
Shift Your Focus From Negative to Positive
Shifting your attitudes and the way you generally approach something will also require you to shift your focus. Research indicates that people with anxiety often engage in negative thinking, imagine negative outcomes and situations, and worry about worst case scenarios.
There is a tendency to want to know how things will turn out in order to feel safe and secure. But, it is not always possible. Many life circumstances are unpredictable and fraught with unknowns. Rather than fighting against uncertainty and other unpleasant emotions, shift your focus toward finding attitude of gratitude meaning in these situations.
Keep in mind that this does not simply mean putting on a smile and pretending that things are ok. However, it does mean acknowledging that most things in life are rarely cut and dry, or black and white. Many things exist in a complex and gray, messy area.
Learning how to have an attitude of gratitude may also help to reduce overthinking that occurs with anxiety. The way this works is by first becoming aware and catching yourself in moments of overthinking, overanalyzing, and rumination.
Then, intentionally shift your focus toward looking for things you feel grateful for. Allow yourself to alter your perspective on the need to know all things and be in control. Challenge yourself to find positives in times of uncertainty and in the unknown.
Using Gratitude As A Way to Cope With Disappointment
Facing disappointment is not easy. Feelings of failure and defeat offer a hard blow to the ego and deflate the human spirit.
These difficult emotions oftentimes heighten feelings of nervousness and worry about the future.
When falling short of goals or making mistakes, it can be helpful to reframe worries into helpful attitude of gratitude statements instead.
Reframing worries into gratitude comments allows you to be appreciative toward yourself for what you have done so far. What would it feel like to give yourself credit for your efforts despite the outcome or results? Can you thank yourself for showing up? Appreciate yourself for trying?
What does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude when you feel disappointed by other people and their actions? Is there something positive you can appreciate in the other person, the process, or the situation?
This isn’t always easy to do. Below are a few examples of statements of gratitude that can help cope with feeling let down:
- I am grateful that I have gotten this far
- I’ve had a good experience even though this did not work out as planned
- I appreciate myself for continuing to try even when things get tough
- I am grateful for the support I receive from others on this journey
What other helpful comments can you come up with to say to yourself? Remind yourself of your resiliency and ability to show up and try again.
Appreciating What You Have vs. What Is Lacking
Thinking about what you are missing, can’t get, haven’t yet received, or will never achieve can lead to distress and anxiety. It also has the potential to negatively influence self-confidence and triggers painful beliefs about your capabilities or self-worth.
It is important to keep an eye on personal goals, desires, and aspirations. For example, a bigger house, a better job, more fulfilling relationships, more time for vacation, etc.
However, disproportionately attending to what is still needed or lacking limits the time spent on appreciating what you already have. To help introduce gratefulness into your life, look for signs and evidence of abundance that already exists in your life.
Shift your mindset away from scarcity and fear and toward abundance and joy. Is there something currently in your life that is pleasing or brings you joy? Can you create space in your day to be with these things?
Use Your Memory to Elicit Feelings of Gratefulness
Feelings of gratefulness are more difficult to conjure up during serious moments of hardship.If you struggle to practice appreciation for things in the current moment, you can use your memory as a tool.
It is still possible to feel appreciation for things in your life even if they happened in the past. Start with thinking of a time in your life when something went well and made you feel happy. Think of a moment in your life in which you felt grateful for a thing, person, place, or event.
For example, you may remember the day you adopted a beloved pet. How was that special day? Can you feel appreciative for the companionship, laughter or fun you and your pet have shared together?
Thinking about past positive experiences are still likely to elicit those similar positive emotions today. Doing so can help kick-start bringing thankfulness into your daily life.
How to Have an Attitude of Gratitude With Anxiety
The contrary is also true. It is just as possible to remember something negative and experience negative emotions today. For example, social anxiety disorder causes fear of social situations, being criticized or judged by others.
When struggling with social anxiety, the fear is easily activated when recalling previous situations that caused embarrassment or uneasiness. Bringing appreciation to these situations can lessen the stress.
But, what does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude when dealing with social anxiety hinders enjoyment from socializing? One way is to elicit memories of positive social experiences.
For example, can you imagine moments where you experienced deep gratitude for the presence of someone in your life? Can you identify one supportive friend or person you have connection to?
Perhaps a classmate that helped you study and understand complicated material for your exam. Or someone that checked in on you when you were sick? Babysat your child when you were in need? Accompanied you to a party to help you feel more comfortable?
Social anxiety can make you feel that all social experiences are negative. However, remembering times when you received kindness or support from others, can help bring attitude of gratitude meaning to socializing.
Feeling grateful helps to increase the strength of connection with others. It also promotes prosocial behavior by influencing you to put yourself out there for the benefit of other people. Overtime, inclinations toward gratitude and kinship can lead to improved social experiences.
Using Your 5 Senses
Any of the senses that we use to perceive the world can be used to help develop and promote gratitude.
Not only can you use your five senses as a grounding technique to manage anxiety, but also as a tool to increase positive thoughts of appreciation.
Use your vision to look around the space or environment in which you are currently standing in.
If you are inside, observe the various items, colors, shapes, textures, and other characteristics of what is observable. If you are outside, observe things within your environment or neighborhood that you have appreciation for.
For example, leaves changing color, animals, water sources, transportation and infrastructure. This can stimulate ideas of where you can shift your focus to when you are dealing with anxiety or distress.
Use your hearing to observe the sounds in your environment. For example, birds singing outside, the sound of children laughing, the sound of rain or wind.
What does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude with your hearing? Some examples include: Listening to music that stimulates nostalgia or other happy memories. The sound of food cooking on the stovetop can signal deep appreciation to have access to food.
The sound of the laundry machine can invite gratitude for water and clean clothing. The sound of your friends and family in your home can stimulate warm appreciation for your relationships.
Use your ability to perceive pleasing scents in your environment. Some scents and fragrances bring comfort, calmness, nostalgia and influence your mood. For example, putting on a favorite perfume can make you feel more confident and happy.
The aroma of baked goods, flavorful cooking spices, bouquet of flowers, or a candle in your home can elicit appreciation. Shifting your focus to pleasant smells can activate feelings of warmth and joy.
Take time to enjoy and appreciate foods and beverages you can taste. For example, you may feel gratitude for the first cup of hot coffee in the morning. Or the flavors of your favorite meal or your mom’s home cooking.
What would it be like to bring appreciation to the variety of textures you can feel in your environment? For example, gratitude for the softness of a blanket, a firm pillow, a smooth keyboard.
What about in nature? Feeling the crunchiness of leaves on the ground as you go for a walk in the park. The water against your skin when swimming in a pool, lake, or beach?
Practicing Thankfulness Without Comparison or Judgment
Be creative. It doesn’t matter how tiny, small, medium or large the gratitude is. Allow ideas to flow naturally without judgment. An attitude of gratitude meaning in your life is personal.
What you find pleasing may not be what another person may find pleasing. For example, you may appreciate certain music that brings you joy and peace while the same music could be displeasing to someone else.
Be mindful not to use other people as a reference point for what you should be grateful for. Comparing yourself to what other people have can make you question your own abilities or assets. It is often helpful to disregard comparisons or judgments as they can lead toward negativity.
Thus reducing all the positive power of being thankful. Instead, remember the importance of individuality and uniqueness of each person. You are more likely to experience the benefits of gratitude when they are personal and specific to you.
Quick & Simple Tips to Practice Gratitude Everyday
Write in a Gratitude Journal
Practicing gratitude can be expressed through writing in a notebook or journal. Journaling can take place daily or weekly. You can also select the time of day that works best for you to sit down and write.
Your writing can be freeform or prompted with ideas of what to write. For example, you can choose to write three things in the morning that you are grateful for. Write three things in the evening that you encountered and appreciated during the day.
Choose a rhythm and writing style that works for you. You can be creative here and don’t have to follow any specific rules.
Spirituality: Counting Your Blessings
Counting one’s blessings is another way to practice thankfulness and appreciation. Depending on your own personal spiritual journey and practice, an attitude of gratitude meaning can have a different interpretation for you.
Spiritual rituals such as saying grace prior to eating a meal is one example. Another is thanking a higher power for spiritual guidance and protection in your life. This will be heavily influenced by your own spiritual and cultural beliefs.
Set a Timer to Remind You to Give Thanks
Setting a timer on your phone to ring once or twice a day can help remind you to be thankful. The timer will serve as a reminder to pause what you are doing in order to appreciate your immediate surroundings.
Acts of Kindness Towards Others
You may express appreciation for the people in your life. How can you demonstrate deep appreciation for them without focusing on monetary costs here? For example, texting or calling a friend to verbalize appreciation or sending a thank you note to someone. Spending time with them and doing an activity together.
Spend Quiet Time With Yourself
Quiet time alone can help you focus inward in order to have a personal, devoted, gratitude practice. Take an intentional few minutes in the day when you can sit by yourself in silence.
Reduce distractions and think about what does it mean to have an attitude of gratitude in your own life. Pause, reflect, slow down, and identify things you feel appreciative for.
Maintain Conscious and Deliberate Practice
Practicing being grateful on a regular basis requires deliberate and conscious awareness and intention. It is easy to get off track and use blaming, negativity, or other unhelpful coping strategies when things go wrong.
Make a commitment to yourself to return to an attitude of gratitude and search for ways to continue to practice appreciation. The more you do this, the easier it will be to develop and maintain feeling of abundance and thankfulness.
Anxiety Counseling in Rockland County & Everywhere in New York Online
If you live in New York State and are interested in more support with gratitude or anxiety counseling, schedule an appointment today. Meet with a therapist in Rockland County NY via online.