If you want to teach a friend or relative about gratitude, ask them to reflect on what life would be like without the people, places, and things they value most. Suggest that they write about things they appreciate in a journal and to express gratitude to their loved ones regularly. If they’re dealing with hardship, let them know that gratitude isn’t just about listing good things. Point out how obstacles can make them stronger and help shed light on the positive aspects of their life.
Method One of Three:
Cultivating a Grateful MindsetEdit
1Bring up the subject of gratitude gently. Think about where your loved one is coming from before giving them advice about being grateful. Try to be sensitive and empathize with them. Let them know that you just want to help them notice the positive aspects of their life.
- For instance, they might be going through a rough spot, juggling a lot of responsibilities, or trying to cover up insecurities.
- Try saying, “I don't want you to think I'm judging you. It's easy to overlook the good things in life, especially if you have a lot going on. You have a lot to be grateful for, and I just want to help you recognize that.”
2Describe the connections between gratitude and well-being. If you’re trying to convince a friend or relative to be more grateful, start by explaining how gratitude is linked to mental and physical health. When you’re grateful, you acknowledge the connections you share with people, events, and things. Because of this, cultivating gratitude can deepen your relationships and help you recognize your world’s value and complexity.
- Tell them, “Gratitude can help you notice the good things in your life, but that doesn't mean you should overlook the bad. You can also appreciate the lessons you learned from hardships or the people that helped you overcome them.”
3Tell your friend or relative to start each day with a gratitude meditation. Ask them to set each day’s tone by reviewing the 2 or 3 things they appreciate most. Before they even get out of bed, they should stretch their arms out and breathe in as deeply as they can. As they stretch and breathe, they should concentrate on what or who makes them most grateful.
- Tell them they can think or say something like, “I am so fortunate to have people who love me, that I’ve slept in a warm bed, and that I didn’t go to bed hungry. No matter what happens today, my life is filled with goodness.”
4Have your gratitude student list things they usually take for granted. Paying attention is the key to cultivating gratitude. Ask your friend or relative to think about small aspects of their life that go unnoticed. If they need help, give them a few examples of easily overlooked things that you couldn’t live without.
- For instance, it’s easy to overlook things like having air to breathe, the feeling of the sun on a warm spring day, having food and shelter, and the sound of your favorite song or musical instrument.
5Ask them to imagine life without the person or thing they treasure most. Have your student reflect on what life would be like without their child or pet, if they didn’t have a home or financial security, or if they didn’t have access to food or water. Contemplating life without the people and things you value most is a good way to deepen your sense of gratitude.
- Cultivating gratitude isn’t just about listing everything that’s good in your life. The key is to sincerely acknowledge that your life wouldn’t be the same without the person or thing you appreciate. This involves expanding your awareness.
6Take them on a walk around their favorite park or nature trail. Ask them to name a nearby place that fills them with joy, then take them there. Walk around, enjoy each other’s company, and take in nature’s sights, sounds, and smells.
- Experiencing nature can foster a sense of gratitude for the countless ways the planet sustains life.
- If they dislike the outdoors, you could take them to one of their favorite indoor locations. For instance, if they’re a foodie, go to a restaurant they’ve been dying to try. If they love art, spend an afternoon at a gallery or museum.
7Ask them to think about how they’ve overcome past hardships. Mention that, in a way, it’s possible to be grateful for hardships. Ask them how an obstacle taught them a lesson, or about the people who helped them overcome hardship. Talk about how hardships can help them recognize the positive aspects of their life.
- For example, suppose they suffered an injury that resulted in a lifelong disability. They can be grateful that they survived the injury, appreciate their loved ones who help them with daily tasks, and have faith that adapting to their disability will make them a stronger person.
Method Two of Three:
Keeping a Gratitude JournalEdit
1Tell your friend or relative to write for 15 minutes a day. Ask them to set a time each day to write in their gratitude journal. Recommend they write in the evening, so they can reflect on their experiences that day. Additionally, the best time to write is when distractions are at a minimum.
- Let them know that they can use a pen and paper or electronic device. Tell them to use whichever method they prefer.
2Ask them to list 5 to 10 good things that happened each day. Have them start their entry by reviewing a few parts of their day that made them happy. Examples might include:
- “Today my coworker told me how much they respect me and that many people on the team look up to me.”
- “My dog finally learned to lie down on command and it made me feel so proud.”
- “An old friend gave me a call today and it was wonderful to reconnect.”
3Have them describe their feelings in a paragraph-long reflection. In addition to listing good things, recommend that they write a reflection to express their feelings and organize their thoughts. Tell them to elaborate on the details of an event, person, or thing that made them grateful. They should describe what happened, qualities about someone they appreciate, and the emotions they experienced.
- For example: “I was sick today, and my neighbor brought over some homemade chicken soup. It was delicious, and actually made me feel better! It made me feel special that someone thought about me and took the time to show that they care.”
4Explain how to write specific, detailed journal entries. Being specific will help them focus on what gratitude feels like and what exactly makes them grateful. Ask them to concentrate on the emotions they experience and to take a few minutes to find the right words to express them. When they describe something that they’re thankful for, have them provide details instead of generalizations.
- For example, “I’m grateful that my neighbor brought me soup and wanted to help me feel better” is more effective than “I’m grateful for my neighbor.”
5Mention that they can get creative with drawings and collages. If they’re more of a visual thinker, tell them that they can express their feelings in images instead of words. Suggest that they make a collage with photographs of people or things that make them grateful.
- They could also make sketches of their neighbor bringing them soup, of their plant that started blossoming, or of the the sun coming out after a week of clouds and rain.
6Tell them to write about hardships if they’ve had a bad day. Remind them that being grateful doesn’t mean they should ignore the challenges they face. Mention that they can review their rough day in their journal, but suggest that they try to find bright spots.
- For example, they might write, “Everything seemed to go wrong today. I locked myself out of my house, made a major mistake at work, and broke my cell phone.”
- A positive take might be, “Today was rough, but at least I got through it! I’m thankful that my sister has a spare key and could help me, and that I can afford a new phone. As for work, I’ll need to learn from my slip-up and do my best not to let it happen again.”
Method Three of Three:
Expressing Gratitude to OthersEdit
1Give examples of how they can thank people for small gestures. Let them know that there are plenty of little things they can thank people for every day. Tell them to say “Thank you” when someone holds the door for them, when they check out at stores or dine out, and when someone pays them a compliment.
- Suggest that they look the person in the eye and thank them sincerely instead of responding automatically to be polite.
2Have them write thank-you notes to people they appreciate. Recommend that they write out a thank-you note by hand to someone who’s made a difference in their life. While it’s great to thank someone when they do something nice for you, a thank-you note doesn’t have to be about something recent or an action. They could just write about the person’s qualities and why they’re grateful to have that person in their life.
- For example, they could write to a friend, “You’re such a dedicated, hard-working person. You’ve always been such a great influence on me, and you inspire me to pursue my goals.”
3Suggest that they deliver thank-you notes in person, if possible. Tell them that they read their note to the person they’re thanking face-to-face whenever possible. It’s great to get a thank-you note in the mail, but it feels even better to hear someone thank you in person.
- For people that live far away, they could also read their note over the phone.
4Tell them to thank their partner and close friends frequently. If they’re in a relationship, mention that thanking each other at least once a day can help couples strengthen their bond. Tell them to thank their partner for specific actions and to randomly thank them for being who they are.
- If they’re not in a relationship, let them know that expressing gratitude regularly can help strengthen friendships, too.