Gratitude Guide: 25-ish Questions to Help you Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Written by Chelsea Dinsmore November 25, 2015

LYL-Gratitude

You become what you do most of the time.” – Tony Robbins

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I find gratitude to be one of the best daily practices out there. And since this week is centered around a holiday about giving thanks (at least for those of you in the U.S.), I thought I would share with you a few simple steps to help you develop and/or further this practice.

Why Be Grateful?

On a daily basis jotting down what you are grateful for may not feel like it makes a huge impact. It might seem like it just causes you to appreciate the moments more (which is in fact a big impact!) but as you make this a more regular part of your weekly, daily, or hourly routine, you’ll begin to notice changes in yourself, in your perspective and in your overall attitude.

This takes time and practice but eventually your mind will begin to move towards gratitude as its default rather than a number of other (often times, negative) emotions.

And I wholeheartedly believe that when you are truly in a moment of being grateful, it is impossible to experience opposite emotions such as sadness, loneliness, anger, depression, etc. When your heart is filled with gratitude, it brings you to the present and there simply isn’t enough room for anything else!

In my opinion, practicing gratitude allows you to:

  • discover yourself (to learn what you like, what makes you feel alive, what makes you tick!)
  • change your state (take you from a bad mood to a good mood)
  • gain a broader perspective of your current situation and the world around you
  • create change
  • find appreciation in simple things
  • be present and aware of your surroundings
  • act more intentionally rather than simply reacting

What to Be Grateful For?

Talking about something is incredibly different than actually doing something! Which is one of the many reasons why we talked about the importance of accountability last week. How many times have you said to yourself: “I’d really like to do X, Y or Z” and then 6 months, 1 year, 5 years later you find yourself still saying, “I’d really like to do X, Y, or Z.”

On this same note, I also think talking about something you are grateful for is very different than actually feeling grateful for something. Just like with achieving goals or dreams, a shift happens when you go from talking to doing. The same is true with gratitude, when you go from thinking to actually feeling, you begin to open yourself up to the benefits that come from regularly experiencing this emotion.

So here’s a little roadmap to get you on your grateful way:

Start Simple

In the beginning of any new habit or practice, you may need to begin with the obvious. And in my opinion this is where a lot of people get stuck. They say “I’m grateful I have a roof over my head” but they don’t actually feel it. However, you have to start somewhere! So start simple.

Questions to ask:

  1. Who are you grateful for? Your mother, father, children, spouse, extended family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, pets.
  2. What around you are you grateful for? Physical surroundings (such as a house, car, city or state), external surroundings (such birds chirping, sun shining, rain falling) or emotional surroundings (such as the love you feel for or from someone).
  3. What did you do today that you enjoyed? Listened to a great song, played with your kids, met a friend for lunch, walked the dogs.
  4. What or who do you feel like you need in your life? Your car, your house, your phone, your TV, your favorite pair of shoes.
  5. What do you feel lucky to have that some others do not? Food, water, warmth, family, friends, health.

Look Inwards

Moving from the external to the internal is where self discovery begins. There are many obvious things we can be grateful for – our house, our friends, our family, etc. – but you might need to look a little deeper to begin to actually feel that gratitude.

Questions to ask:

  1. Tap into your senses: What do you love to eat? What do you love to watch? What do you love to smell? What do you love to hear? What do you love to touch? Food, drinks, movies, flowers, coffee, music, that one cute word your son or daughter says wrong, your cozy blanket, your comfy sweatshirt.
  2. When did you feel good today? What about that made you feel good? When you presented at work, when your child thanked you, when your spouse said I love you, when your friend called you, when you thought about the upcoming weekend.
  3. When did you smile or laugh today? What or who made you smile? When you ordered your coffee at Starbucks, when you received that cat video from your friend, when your child asked you a silly question.
  4. What made you proud today? Why? When you woke up early to work out, when you made it to work on time, when your child got an award, when you said yes to something scary.
  5. What were you thanked for today? For the work you did, the meal you made, the way you helped, the gift you sent, the thoughts you shared.

Note: Major life transitions aside, if you cannot answer any of these questions, it may be time to rethink how you are spending your time and who you are spending it with!

Shift Your Perspective

It’s easy to get so caught up in all that is going on in our own little world that we forget about all the things that happen all around us every single day, which are actually miracles on their own! Alternatively, often times people focus on what they don’t have rather than the myriad of amazing small things that they do have. This shift in perspective helps to look outside oneself at the bigger picture.

Questions to ask:

  1. What happens in your life without you having to think about it? The sun rises and sets, your eyes blink, you heart beats, you can hear the sound of your alarm, you can go for a walk.
  2. What did your husband, brother, child, etc. do today without you having to ask? They made lunch or dinner, they picked up the kids, they paid the bills, they called.
  3. What did not exist 10, 20, 50 years ago that is a regular part of your daily life now? Healthy easily accessible food, the TV, the iPhone, being able to fly almost anywhere in the world, apps that help us learn and grow.
  4. What do you have in your life right now that others (that you know or around the world) do not? Food, water, shelter, family, warmth, security, stability.
  5. Ask yourself: “What else could this mean?” Perhaps that person that cut you off is actually rushing to the hospital, perhaps the person behind the counter was short with you because they just lost their mother or aunt or friend, perhaps it isn’t really about you at all? Maybe there’s a larger meaning…

Find Presence

I truly believe there is beauty in every single day – and in every single moment. You may not see it all day or be able to find beauty in every aspect of every moment but there is at least something, even if it is very small, beautiful about it.

Questions to ask:

  1. What around me is physically beautiful? Nature, the room, the light coming into the room, the flowers, the picture on the wall.
  2. What is comfortable about this moment? Your clothes, you chair, your bed.
  3. What sounds do I hear? If you cannot hear, what do you smell? If you cannot smell, what do you feel, etc.? Birds, wind, rain, voices.
  4. What is happening inside my body at this moment? You breath is flowing, your heart is beating, your digestive system is working, your brain is capable of processing, thinking and creating feelings.
  5. If this was your last moment on earth, what would you appreciate about it? Everything.

Reframe

Sometimes it can be hard to be grateful in a moment where you feel like crap. Some might argue that it’s because you aren’t fully present… but that’s another topic! I can safely say that there have been moments over the past few months where I don’t feel very grateful. But there are a few tips and tricks I can tap into when I feel that way.

  1. Look around you. If you are inside, you are likely to see a picture of a loved one or something you brought to put in your house because you loved it. If you are outside, the possibilities are endless. There is tremendous beauty in nature if you take a moment to stop, slow down and notice it.
  2. Tell someone what they mean to you. I recently had a friend tell me I wasn’t allowed to write a thank you card to her. But I did, because in that moment I was sad and it felt good to tell someone what I loved about them.
  3. Ask yourself: Are there really any problems in this moment? Try to truly be in the moment, not looking ahead or in the past…
  4. Ask yourself: “If I wanted to be grateful, what could I be grateful for?” Because sometimes we can’t always actually feel the gratitude and that’s ok! This will likely take you right back to starting simple.
  5. Develop a mantra or have a resource that you can tap into when you feel like there is nothing to be grateful for.

Here is a perfect example of reframing:

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something

For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations

Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge

Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes

They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary

Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are

also thankful for the setbacks.

 Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles

and they can become your blessings.

~ Author Unknown ~

How to Develop a More Regular Practice of Gratitude

  • Journaling. I prefer a written journal because I like to carry it around with me all day and jot things down as I see or feel them. I used to only write down things I was grateful for at the end of the day, but I personally feel more when I jot things down as I am in the moment.
  • Gratitude Journal App. A great way to stay accountable!
  • Begin a meditation and/or yoga practice (these often have a focus on gratitude).
  • When you think of someone, send them a text. Even if it just says, I’m thinking of you. I love you!
  • Write notes to people. I am an avid lover of snail mail and love writing notes and cards to my friends.
  • Set reminders! Have an alarm pop up every few hours to remind you to stop and be grateful.
  • Leverage holidays as a way to share your gratitude. Birthdays, holidays, etc. are the perfect way to share why you are grateful for someone or something. Think of something unique (a memory, a trait, etc.) and share why you love it!
  • Here are a few more ways that Scott shared a few years ago!
  • Flood yourself. Set a 2-3 minute timer and write down what you are grateful for. You may not capture it all but just let the thoughts flood you!

And because I just gave you a road map, here is the outcome of a few minutes gratitude session I did recently…

I am grateful that I wake up each day. That my eyes open and I can see the beauty of my surroundings. That my heart beats without me having to tell it to. That I get to wake up in a warm, cozy bed in a house that my in-laws welcomed me in to.

I am grateful that I have easy access to resources that help me develop (such as Headspace). That I have clothes in a closet (and that I even have a closet!). I am grateful for warm water, hot tea and coffee. I am grateful for green vegetables and the Vitamix. I am grateful for yoga, The Dailey Method, gymnastics and for the body I have that allows me to participate in these practices.

I am grateful for the flexibility that I have in my life. That I can work from anywhere in the world doing something that I love, with people I respect and that helps others live a life they love. I am grateful for the love and support that flows in everyday, from this community, from my family and from friends near and far.

I am grateful that Scott chose me. That he picked me to be his wife. That I was the lucky one he wanted to share himself with. I am grateful that at the young age of 32 I got to spend 13 magical years with someone. I am grateful that I got to experience the love that Scott and I shared. A love that was deep, true and intentional. I am grateful that we chose to follow our dreams and it allowed me to spend every minute of every day for 8 months with my best friend, who in the end was taken away all too soon. I am grateful for the things he left me – his words, his wisdom, his videos, his ideas and his love. I am grateful that love is unconditional, that love exists despite conditions, because that means that Scott’s love for me will live on. I am grateful for the relationship that we had – because our souls already knew how to hold hands and they can still do that. I am grateful for all that he did for me as my husband. That I have no doubt in my mind how much he loved and adored me. And for that I am grateful that he will never know a day without me by his side.

I am grateful that I am capable enough to help carry on his message. And that you all are willing to listen to me to do so. I am grateful for the beauty of the world we live in. For fresh flowers, sunsets, wine country, the ocean and the many places I have been lucky enough to visit.

I am grateful for the warm house I will be in tomorrow. For the delicious food that will be set on the table. For the wine that will be sipped alongside it and for those that will be with me – in person or in spirit – to share in the beauty of the moment.

My challenge to you… Wake up tomorrow and answer one, any or all of these questions. Set a side a few minutes to let yourself be ‘flooded’ with gratitude. You may end up surprised with how many amazing things you have in your life!

Can you commit to spending a few minutes being grateful tomorrow? Let us know in the comments below by stating “I’m IN!”

Chelsea Dinsmore

P.S. There are a few days left to join us for the Start a Blog Challenge, which just so happens to be another great way to develop an attitude of gratitude! Join by December 1 to be eligible for free access to our flagship Connect With Anyone Course. I can’t wait to see you there 🙂

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