How to Express True Gratitude

  • Posted By: on November 1st, 2007

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John F. Kennedy

Would you consider yourself to be a truly grateful person?

Are you a rare person that appreciates everything (good or bad) in your life, and takes no moment for granted?

If so, you can stop reading now. If not (the majority of us), please continue reading.

Focus on What You DO Have

Each day we awaken to a world of infinite possibility. We can spend our days any way we please, and we take full advantage of this right. We indulge by eating wonderful food, driving luxurious cars (if you don’t think your 1996 Corolla is luxurious, compare it to what the rest of the world drives), spending time with our loved ones, and engaging in many entertaining activities each day.

But somewhere along the line we began taking this right for granted. As a result, we’ve stopped smelling the roses along the way of our journey through life. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come across someone who has so many things in their life to be grateful for, but instead, he or she focuses on the things he or she does not have in his or her life.

When we begin to focus on the things we don’t have, we lose sight of all the gifts we have been blessed with. Our ingratitude then transforms itself into greed, lust, or even worse, misery.

My Experience

Gratitude is a value I’ve been struggling to incorporate into my life for a long time now. At times, I’ve been reckless with my behavior, and have had no consideration for anything in my environment. I lacked appreciation for all that I was blessed with, and my actions overwhelmingly showed it. Perhaps this is a phase everyone passes through growing up, but I believe I’ve had it worse than most.

I’ve come a long way over the past two years. I can attribute part of this growth to the natural maturation process. However, just as much of this growth is a result of my adoption of new paradigms. Consequently, I’ve started viewing gratitude as a way of life, rather than as something to be focused on momentarily. This perception has drastically improved the quality of my life on a day-to-day basis. Each day is a joyous occasion, regardless of if something horrible happens, or it’s the most fortunate day of my life.

Although it took me over two years to reach this point in my development, it certainly won’t take you as long. Commit to taking a few simple actions each day, and gratitude will become a way of life for you too.

Surface-level Gratitude

Most human beings view gratitude as a momentary interruption in their thought process.

Before we sleep, we thank God for all of the good things we have in our life. Often times we complement this thanks with a request for more “stuff”. If we are truly grateful for what we already have, why the hell are we asking for even more things?

Other times, it occurs to us that we’re being so ungrateful, that we have no choice but to remind ourselves to be grateful. We realize that we were wrong in taking things for granted, and we proclaim confidently that we’ll never let it happen again. The next day, to our dismay, we’re back at square one, taking things for granted like never before! I’ve gone through this process a countless number of times.

In both examples above, we’re paying attention to something called “surface-level gratitude.” We are attempting to be grateful for specific things (material and beyond) in our life (money, relationships, success). If we were to translate this type of gratitude into words, it would look something like this:

  • I am grateful for my relationships
  • I am grateful for my health
  • I am grateful for my success
  • I am grateful for my income
  • I am grateful for food and shelter

When we forget to be grateful, these are the affirmations we recite to ourselves. This makes us feel better temporarily, and deludes us into thinking we’re being truly grateful. Life goes on, and so does this circular thought process.

There is absolutely no true fulfillment to be obtained by viewing gratitude with this perspective. In order to experience true gratitude, we must carry it permanently with us everywhere we go.

Gratitude must become a way of life.

A New Way of Life

All of us have so many things to be grateful for. It doesn’t matter if you’re tremendously successful, or if you’re miserably poor. There are certain things we as human beings share in common at a basic level. When we are grateful for these fundamental gifts, we experience a much deeper level of gratitude, “true gratitude”. If we learn to get in touch with it, each and every one of us can experience a more joyous, fulfilling, appreciative life.

Be grateful for the following:

  • All of us have been given the gift of life
  • All of us have been given the gift of nature
  • All of us have been given the gift of the mind
  • All of us have been given the gift of a wondrous, supportive universe

Once we internalize these truths, we can then experience a gratitude for existence itself. Everywhere we go, we will carry this gratitude with us. Each day we will wake up feeling grateful for the day ahead of us, regardless of our present circumstances.

If we truly appreciate the gift of life, for example, anything that comes our way will be viewed as a joyous experience. The next time someone treats us the wrong way, we will be grateful for the experience. The next time we are feeling sad, we will be grateful for the experience. The next time we feel tremendously successful, we will be grateful for the experience. Good or bad, we will understand that all experiences are a byproduct of life itself, and that they all contribute to our overall experience of this life.

Making the Transition

To shift our paradigm from one of “surface-level gratitude” to one of “true gratitude” we must learn to express gratitude for everything in our reality. The best way to do this is to focus your gratitude on things that you would never thought you would be grateful for. For example, if I’m taking a shower, I will say to myself, “I am grateful for the shiny metal on the shower head.”

Whenever something overwhelmingly negative is happening in your life, take a step back, and be grateful for it. Not only because it is an experience that will undoubtedly contribute to your growth, but also because it is another one of those byproducts of life itself.

Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous. However, if you do this often enough, soon what you’ll find is that you’ll no longer be saying, “I’m grateful for x.” Instead, you will simply say “I’m grateful.” The gratitude you are feeling every day by focusing your attention on seemingly unimportant things will carry over to all areas of your life. It will slowly become a permanent, all encompassing expression of being.

Do Not Utter Words, Live By Them

Making the shift to “true gratitude” is by far one of the most empowering paradigm shifts I’ve made in my lifetime. Although I know I haven’t completed the transition process completely yet, the progress I have made thus far has contributed to an enhanced experience of life itself.

Each day is joyous. Each day is a gift.

Commit to focusing your gratitude on anything and everything in your reality, and you will soon find that this gratitude has become a permanent state of being. You will no longer feel grateful, you will be grateful. You will no longer utter words of gratitude to yourself; you will live by them, as JFK once said. And in doing so, your life will be full of joy, fulfillment, and appreciation.

Photo by gwaar

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  1. Marianne said on February 7th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I like your topics it gives true insight of what life is all about.
    Thanks… Good luck..

  2. tabulyo said on February 16th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    I’m grateful. Yes I am grateful. …:P Yes I am. Thank you for your post. I do list all the things im grateful for daily in my blog and daily i am more happier.

    “In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy” -Albert Clarke

  3. Kevin Velasco said on November 26th, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Here are things that I attempt to express gratitude for everyday. I say “attempt” because I sometimes forget:

    Friends and family who appreciate and accept me for who I am
    The ability to make U.S. dollars
    Eyes to see with
    Ears to hear with
    Legs to walk with
    Hands to type with
    Not-so-bad looks
    A computer with access to the internet
    Good health

  4. Rahul Bhambhani said on November 30th, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Kevin – Great stuff, man! Thank you for sharing. Using law of relativity to your advantage and really seeing just how fortunate we are compared to most of the world.

  5. Wizz said on February 24th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    That’s so true, thanks for taking the time to write how your experience has helped you, i learned a lot.

  6. Rocky Bishop said on November 20th, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    As a Registered Nurse, having seen many injured, acute and chroniclly ill patients, I am so grateful for my health and health of my family. Many of my patients do take their health for granted, some thing that we probably ALL should be grateful for.

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Welcome to Take 20 – a Blog exposing readers to unique personal development concepts and ideas. Hi. My name is Rahul Bhambhani. I was previously a student in the Business Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Somewhere in the midst of my education, I began to question whether it was contributing to […]

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