LSR #8: Active Gratitude

One lesson my near six months of blogging has taught me is this:  When my palms sweat and my heartbeat quickens, I’ve probably come upon a post-worthy topic—something that will resonate with, inspire or entertain people in some way. Sharing my personal story last week was no exception. Your warm, heartbreaking and even humorous responses inspired so many chills, I wondered if I’d end up with permanent chicken skin. And you know what? I would’ve worn it with pride.

Thank you with all of my heart!

It seems only reasonable that I jump to #8 in my Lifesaving Resolutions series to what I call active, or proactive, gratitude—a technique that’s helped lift my spirits in countless frustrating situations, from bumpy patches on the road to recovery to harsh literary feedback. I hope you find it as kick-butt-awesome as I do. 😉

grat·i·tude /noun: a feeling of appreciation or thanks —Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Active gratitude involves acting upon these feelings. You know that saying, “Action speaks louder than words?” Well it’s particularly powerful in gratitude matters.

While a grateful person sees a glass as half full and an ungrateful person deems it half empty, an actively grateful person savors the beverage, thanks the preparer and goes on to share the drink with others. 

Active gratitude is also reactive.

On happy days, our blessings seem like lit up billboards in our brains: I love my life! What gorgeous weather! Yeahoo—I’m out of debt! PMS = over! Active gratitude often follows automatically. We smile, observe positivity in others and do good deeds with natural ease. Why? Because happy, grateful people tend to take better care of themselves and others.

In fact, research conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, a grateful mindset is associated with improved physical health, reduced anxiety and depression, sounder sleep and kinder behavior toward others. (Talk about awesome frosting.)

But we can’t very well activate gratitude if we don’t have any, right? Enter my favorite use of the technique:

On difficult days, we can easily turn inward, fixate on our gloom and throw a nonstop pity-party that does little but make us, and those around us, feel worse. By making the decision to cultivate gratitude and act upon it, the yuck-snowball can boomerang in the opposite direction, turning the nasty grayish ice clumps into sunny warmth. (Ahh…)

Simple Ways to Activate Gratitude:

Commit to a grateful mindset. For practical, entertaining insight on doing so, check out Kristen Lamb’s fantastic post: An Attitude of Gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal. Simply jotting down your “I’m thankful for” list tends to cultivate grateful living. To take it many steps further, choose an item from your list to act upon each day, week or whenever the blahs set in.

Grateful for the fantastic book you’ve just read? Post a 5-star review on Amazon.com or blog about its awesomeness. Better yet, do both.

Grateful for your health? Schedule that annual physical you’ve been dismissing. Stock up on fruits and veggies. Go for a walk.

Grateful for your significant other? Sneak a love note into his or her work gear. Plan a spontaneous date. Complete a household chore they loathe doing.

Grateful for supportive blogging friends? Post thoughtful comments on their posts. Share links to their blogs via your own blog, email, Facebook and Twitter.

Stressed over finances? Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Donate “junk” from your closet to your local thrift store. Give food or spare change to a homeless person.

Crushed over a rejection letter? Write thank you letters to your loved ones or to your inner child/creativity/writing self. Read to a child or grandparent.

Feeling PMS-ey? Take a loved one who “gets it” out for coffee or, who am I kidding, ICE CREAM. 😉 Cry your eyes out while you’re at it. It’s healthy.

Hungry for more?? Check out these fabulous posts by some of my favorite bloggers:

Julie Hedlund’s tribute to her daughter: Gratitude Sunday 68
Tameri Etherton’s creative pursuit of honing a grateful attitude: New Year’s Resolutions
Piper Bayard’s commemoration of heros from 9/11: We Drank Champagne and Remembered

***My own gratitude inspired the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest, which is coming up February 9th and 10th. If you’d like to participate as a blogger or prize donor, click here.

What are you particularly grateful for this week? How do you plan to express it? Any fab suggestions to add? I love hearing from you.

Leave a comment

64 Comments

  1. Inspiring. Thank you.

    This week, I’m grateful for the words of my late Grandmother-in-Law, who used to advise, “You can be right, or you can be happy.” (She also liked to say, “You should live, but not long.” Though that’s probably a topic for another day.)

    Reply
  2. Thanks for this great post August! 🙂
    By the way, your last post is still resonating with me.
    Hope you have an awesome week.

    Reply
  3. I have been living and preaching this in one form or another for many years. It truly works, life is good and it is fun to share that emotion with others. Thanks for a great post. I’ll go RT it now. Have a stellar day.

    Reply
    • No wonder you’re so awesome! 😉 Seriously, most of the people I respect and admire prioritize grateful living. And whether the chicken or egg came first matters little, right? Thanks for the support Prudence!

      Reply
  4. After reading up on the Law of attraction and watching the Secret I started doing this recently. ALthough I don’t do it everyday as some suggest, I still do it once a week and it really does make a world of difference!

    “Pms=over”, that’s feelings of relief rather than gratitude!! Ha ha 😉

    Great post, August, keep on inspiring… 😀

    Reply
    • Ha… Well I’m grateful for that relief! So glad you prioritize active appreciation, Nisha. Helps everything from our health and moods to our writing.

      Reply
  5. Proactive gratitude is a true gift to behold that unfortunately so many people will never experience or attempt to practice. Bad days no longer phase me. I have been surrounded with so many wonderful things in my life that I no longer take for granted. A grateful mindset is kick-butt-awesome as are all of your blogs in the Lifesaving Resolution series!

    Reply
  6. Wonderful post, August! Proactive gratitude is something that my mom and I have been trying to practice each day. Whenever we talk to one another, if the conversation starts to take a downer in terms of things that are hard in our lives, one of us always begins a litany of all the many other things that we have to be grateful for. It really is a transformative exercise, and one that has the power to change my mindset.

    Great list of recommended tips for engaging in proactive gratitude, especially the one about volunteering in a soup kitchen. My grad school friends and I lament our close-to-poverty-level finances, but there’s nothing like going to the local homeless shelter and seeing the men, women, and children there, grateful for a full meal, to remind us of what we really do have. It feels like such a tiny, insignificant action to spend 2 or 3 hours serving lunch, but the people I’ve interacted with at the shelter act like it’s the most wonderful thing that anyone can do. Small actions can create much bigger changes!

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    • <> So true, Lena! Sounds like you have a fantastic mother who’s instilled in you a grateful, giving heart. I love the way you help keep each other in check… 🙂

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  7. Wonderful, inspiring and a very uplifting post, August.

    Every day I try to be grateful for something. Anything – my family, my health (even on those days when I’m not at my best), my friends, the social media pals, healthy food and clean water that we so easily take for granted in this country, comfortable life, the gift of writing and art that God has granted me, and the list goes on.

    Have a happy, filled with gratitude week 🙂

    Reply
    • You ooze gratitude, Angela. Um, I mean that in the best possible way. (Should’ve visited my thesaurus—ha…) Your optimism makes it easy to have grateful days and weeks. Thanks for sharing it!

      Reply
  8. Loved this! I am grateful for all the connections I am making through writing and for posts like these that make me smile!

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  9. Part of my morning routine is reading the newspaper. In our county of nearly two million population, the obituaries run from one to four pages and frequently include toddlers, teens and young adults. Thinking about those people, whose lives had barely begun, always makes me grateful.

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  10. EllieAnn

     /  January 23, 2012

    August this is such a wonderful reminder. I’m thankful for your mad writing skills, and for the way you put yourself out there in a personal way. Thank you!
    The best book I’ve read on this subject is called 1000 Gifts, and it’s just like this–a beautiful reminder to take time to be thankful. I highly recommend this book.
    I’m super thankful for my parents right now. The older I get the more I realize how much time and effort they put into my education and “training.” I’m so thankful for that!

    Reply
    • What sweet things to say, Ellie Ann. Thank you! I’m continually more grateful for my parents, too…especially when I encounter people who haven’t remained close to theirs. Adding 1000 Gifts to my TBR list pronto. 😉

      Reply
  11. Catherine Johnson

     /  January 23, 2012

    Lovely post August and I love that beautiful sunset on your header. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Proactive gratitude, I love that. Spreading the gratitude love… your bog posts always teach me something and you know I’m super grateful to have found you in this big ole blogosphere. Thank you so much for the mention! Since I’ve started my year of gratitude, I look at each day with an attitude of ‘what’s going to surprise me today?’ instead of just getting through each chore. It’s amazing how that one little switch in my mind set has opened a whole new way of seeing my life. Like Tim said, I don’t let bad moments or days phase me. There is just too darn much in my life to be thankful for, I have no reason to complain.

    By the way, I love love love your idea of showing a loved one gratitude by doing a chore they loathe. So simple and yet so rewarding. I’m going to clean my Hub’s man cave today just because I can. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ooh…lucky hubby! 😉 Thanks so much for your kind words, Tameri. It means the world to me that you reap takeaways from my posts.

      I like what you said about not letting the negative phase you. They’re part of life and we should let ourselves experience them, including the blah/grumpy/sad/mad emotions. But if we let them grow into “mountains,” we may not grow past.

      Reply
  13. I’ve noticed that by making more of an effort to express my gratitude, I have received a lot of love and support in return. I love the idea of a gratitude journal, but never got around to formally starting one of my own. Instead, I have rekindled my love of scrapbooking which is my way of lovingly sharing my gratitude FOR my family WITH my family! And making homemade ice cream for my dear hubby when he has a bad day is just another way to spread the love! (especially since I get a bite)…

    Reply
    • Scrapbooking… What a great idea, Jana. I bet you and your gang have a blast going through them—fun that will only grow over time. Add that homemade ice cream to your perusals and look out! 😉

      We really do get more in return by giving… Happens every darn time!

      Reply
  14. Beautiful, August, and I love all the inspiring links, too. It’s amazing how seldom we appreciate the good things in our life unless we make a conscious effort to do so.

    Thanks so much for the great post!

    Reply
  15. As much as I liked the list of ways to grow one’s gratitude, and I did, I really liked how you started this out.

    ‘When my palms sweat and my heartbeat quickens, I’ve probably come upon a post-worthy topic…’

    This has been my experience, and I’m really pleased with how you stated it. I can almost go into a fugue state when I’ve found a topic that really resonates.

    Thanks for that.

    Reply
  16. I’m grateful for supportive blogging friends like you, August. Thanks, too, for using your posts to remind us of the things that matter most in life.

    Reply
  17. I usually wake up before I need to and I’ve started taking the time that I used to spend rueing the coming day to instead think of what I have to be grateful for. It’s surprising how much there is, and how many new ones I can come up with each day. Best of all, when I finally swing all that weight over the side of the bed and then up, the day is looking a lot better than it used to. There is much for each of us to be grateful for!

    Reply
  18. You are an endless well of inspiration, beautiful woman! You never cease to amaze me! This is such a wonderful post, and your last post still lingers, clinging around the edges of my mind. Gratitude is what it is all about. That’s what I tell my Lord each night at the end of the day – how thankful I am. Thank you for the gentle reminder and all the wonderful ideas.

    Reply
    • I’m so touched, Debra. Thank you! I’m not surprised that you contemplate your blessings routinely. It shows in plentiful, fantastic ways. 🙂

      Reply
  19. You continue to inspire with your thoughts and words, August. Kristen’s “attitude of gratitude” resonated with me as well and is a great mantra for everyone. Through life experiences many years ago, I have believed for a very long time that every day is a gift for which to be thankful. Today I’m thankful for your beautiful post … and the two adorable grandchildren I spent the day with. I’m going to see about downloading 1000 Gifts right now.

    Reply
    • Lucky me and lucky grandchildren! Thanks for your warm words, Patricia. 1000 Gifts looks terrific. I love the subtitle: ‘A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.’

      Reply
  20. I can tell by your posts that what you write about sincerely comes from a place in your heart filled with gratitude August. You have grown into this person that we are all attracted to. And how proud you should be for sharing these proactive ingredients for a happier life with all of us!

    I am so grateful each day I have to give praise to our creator and all that he does for each of us. I am grateful for a warm, loving husband who is also an awesome father and my best friend in all the world. I am grateful for two grown sons that no parents could ever be more prouder of. And if I didn’t focus on the things that I am grateful for, I don’t know how I would make it through each day. 🙂

    Reply
    • I have chills, Karen. Thanks so much for your incredible warmth. Makes me so happy knowing that you have so much love and wonderfulness in your life. The fact that you know and appreciate it multiplies their worth. Thanks for being you!

      Reply
  21. Well, right now I’m grateful for this post! This is a reminder I need almost daily. Especially after a particularly rough day at the day job. I have to remember to be thankful to have a job in the first place. To be thankful for my body that works, the roof over my head, and all the food in my fridge. Especially the ice cream.

    Reply
    • Ha… I love the ice cream bit! I think we all need reminders, especially when our dreams and passions aren’t fully synced up with our jobs, relationships, life ordeals… Focusing on the “bright side” can seem cliche. But it’s so legit and powerful.

      Thanks for your insight and gratefulness, Emma!

      Reply
  22. I’m grateful for many things, including your presence in my life August. this post is a wonderful reminder for all of us to focus on what matters. thanks again for a wonderful post

    Reply
    • I’m grateful for you, too, Louise! Isn’t it awesome to have a supportive network of writer/blogger friends? Feels like carrying cheerleaders around in my pocket some days. 🙂

      Reply
  23. J Holmes

     /  January 23, 2012

    OK OK…I’ll try to be slightly less cranky this week.

    I’m always grateful for my dear wife.In three decades of marriage she has never raised her voice to me in anger. She always stays calm so the few times I felt like getting impatient with her I immediately felt severely stupid and stopped myself.

    Cupid was very kind to me.

    Reply
    • Ha! Glad to hear that. Gratefulness can work like Palmolive on crankiness.

      It’s amazing how much we’re influenced by others’ attitudes… Have to agree that you lucked out. 😉

      Reply
  24. Awesome ideas August! I am fortunate to retired early. I use this time to home school my children, care for my family and volunteer at the VA Hospital. I feel so grateful that I can still help others and ease their suffering and thank you for this blog as it brightened my day.

    Here is one for you dear August.

    My Sensei says “if you cannot find something that makes you laugh laugh anyway and you will feel better.”

    William

    Reply
  25. Kourtney Heintz

     /  January 23, 2012

    August, thank you for constantly delivering insightful and inspiring posts. And for being such a supportive blogger. You lead by example with your active gratitude and inspire it in me.

    Reply
  26. Love this post with such amazing tips on how to bring gratitude into your life every single day. I think it’s sooo important to our happiness. Also, I believe what we focus on grows so if we put our mind to the positive and wonderful in our lives, that will only grow deeper and greater.
    I am grateful every day for the amazing blogging family I am creating, for my creative mind to write, for my health and good fortune, for hubby, family, and friends. And for baby-girl (furbaby)!

    Reply
    • Such an excellent point, Natalie. Whatever ventures, thoughts, feelings or behaviors we give our energy to will surely expand. Best we choose wisely. 😉

      I’m grateful for your creative mind and blogging, too!

      Reply
  27. One of my Uncles taught me that wake up everyday with a feeling that it is a Thanksgiving Day. Not only it will help put you in a festive mood but also process during the day will earn you few smiles. I try to remember that but doesn’t happen always. Thank you August for evoking that sense of gratification through this thoughtful post.

    Reply
    • What a great habit, Yatin. Your uncle sounds wise! We all have grumpy, ungrateful moments or days… The more we practice shifting our focus and attitudes, though, the less frequent and severe they’ll become. (So I believe. ;))

      Reply
  28. Thanks for that – had to deal with febril idiots all day today and reading your post puts it inot the proper context. Best wishes (Off to give a five star Amazon review to my favourinte PJ Harvey Album!)

    Reply
  29. BoJo Photo

     /  January 24, 2012

    Great article and tips!!! Very well written. Respect and appreciation, we can’t get enough.

    Reply
  30. Hi August. The great thing about your series is the way you come up with actual steps to go through, not just “be happy.” I particularly like “stressed over finances.” Volunteering is a great way to put money in perspective, it may not make the bills go away, but the most valuable thing we have is time, and it doesn’t cost anything to give some of it away.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  31. I am a big fan of your “stressed over finances” recommendation. We’ve been through quite the stress in that area (still not past it) but I have to admit, focusing on what we have, and giving to those who have even less makes a lot of that anxiety disappear. It’s a big part of why I started the Go Without Campaign on my blog.

    Reply
  32. I’m grateful blogging freinds like you, August! Feedback – positive or otherwise – serves to sharpen my skills. So thank you for always sending input my way…

    Reply
  33. August, this is an amazing post. You put into words the concrete way in which gratitude helps us in our lives whereas before I always thought of it in a more abstract way. And I must say I am so honored to have been named one of your favorite bloggers because the reverse is also true. I am grateful that I have “met” you. You are a true inspiration.

    Reply
  34. I wish I were awake enough to read all of the responses but I want to say what an awesome article. You sound just like another blogger I enjoy, Shelly Immel. Over at the big life project she shares articles about how to live a bigger life (http://thebiglifeproject.com/).

    Wouldn’t it be nice if more people actively appreciated what they have? I know too many who are unhappy, and make sure everyone around them knows it. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy you, and all of the other authors I’ve met here online. 🙂

    Two things very quickly…and then I have to get up and do something (or risk a waffled cheek when I doze off at my desk)…

    For anyone wanting to donate household items, or gently used clothes, please check to see if there’s a Hospice thrift store near you. The operate entirely on donations and sales through their store to take care of people at the end of their lives…and unless it’s different elsewhere, they don’t charge the patients or their families. Sorry, this is an organization very dear to my heart. They took care of my father, an aunt and my grandparents and I love them.

    Also…PMS, for me, doesn’t mean ‘over’ for me. It means if you don’t get me chocolate…NOW….you will live to regret it. 🙂

    Reply
  1. Blog Treasures 1-28 | Gene Lempp's Blog

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