Of the 24 universal character traits recognized by Positive Psychology, Gratitude is one of the top five that are positively correlated with better overall well-being. It can be hard to find things to be grateful these days, especially my XX bodied, LGBT+, polyamorous, and pagan peeps – gratitude can be grown though.
What do you do if gratitude isn’t a natural part of your character? Or if you just so down-trodden that nothing makes you feel grateful? Are you doomed to a lesser sense of well-being?
No, and the good news is, gratitude is a positive character trait that can be practiced and developed over time. Follow these tips to start working on how you experience and receive gratitude in your everyday life, (and if you’re feeling irritated at the idea that gratitude could make you happier, skip to the last section of this post).
If you’re interested in developing your sense of gratitude, it’s a good idea to start by considering how you do when it comes to receiving gratitude from others. Take some time to consider a recent situation in which someone expressed gratitude towards you for something. Bonus points if it was related to how you bravely live your life out loud as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or allow yourself to practice polyamory, ethical non-monogamy, or paganism despite what others think.
How did the compliment make you feel and how did you respond in the moment?
Did you deflect the person’s expression of gratitude? Reciprocate it? Discount it? Or maybe you did something else. However you responded, was it reflective of how you typically respond to gratitude?
Was there anything you could have done to help you accept the gratitude more genuinely, or to savor the moment? How might the way you respond to gratitude impact your connection with the gratitude giver?
How you receive gratitude from others can have an impact on how you experience and express your own feelings of gratitude. So, if you want to develop this positive character trait, take the time to accept and savor any compliments you receive (regardless of what those compliments are about). You might even try telling the gratitude giver how meaningful their compliment is to you. Or, try asking for details about what prompted the person to give you the compliment.
By paying attention to how gratitude from others makes you feel, and savoring that feeling, you may be more inclined to express your own gratitude towards others in the future.
Developing a Grateful Heart
As mentioned above, gratitude is a character strength commonly correlated with better well-being, but it can also become more like a practice that you incorporate into your daily routine. For example, taking the time to write three things each day that you feel genuinely grateful for can help you develop the positive emotions associated with gratitude.
Sit down and write your thoughts in a journal. If you notice feelings of gratitude in the moment, make a note in your phone. Or you may enjoy writing the things you feel grateful for on little pieces of paper and placing them into a gratitude jar.
Give yourself the time and space to feel the gratitude that you’re recording. Notice what happens when you feel that gratitude. Do you feel a smile stretching across your face? Do you feel warm inside? Does your chest feel light? Do you feel a sense of peace or ease? Noticing the sensations that come along with the feeling of gratitude will encourage you to continue developing your gratitude practice.
Get Support from a Therapist
If you’re struggling to work through any of the exercises mentioned above, or you’re feeling stuck, then you may want to consider getting a mental health therapist involved. Maybe life is just so hard right now that you can’t really feel grateful for anything. Or perhaps the stress of being different or feeling judged by others for your lifestyle choices has left you feeling jaded. Maybe you’re dealing with a lot of anger right now and you need help working through those built up emotions.
Regardless of what you’ve got going on, getting a mental health therapist involved in your healing journey can be incredibly helpful. The simple act of being supported by someone who understands can do wonders for a person’s well-being.
If you’d like to schedule a free, brief consultation, reach out using the tools below. I serve people in Houston and throughout the state of Texas, and I specialize in working with individuals who are polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, LGBTQ+, as well as those who engage in alternative lifestyles or less popular religions.