25 Questions to Get Grateful Today (and Forever!)

Written by Chelsea Dinsmore November 22, 2017

It may sound like a bold statement, but I might go as far to say that a gratitude practice actually saved my life.

As some of you have heard, I am currently working on a book (much more on that to come!) and as a part of the research for that book, I began to go through all my journals over the past 2-3 years, so that I could put myself back in that place when writing about that time.

And while, I feel like I have always been someone who finds what is right rather than what is wrong, I have to admit, I was quite shocked to find that my first journal entry the day after Scott died began with the following words:

What I am grateful for…

…and proceeded to list off the things I could still be grateful for even though I had just experienced a tremendous loss. That is a practice I have kept up in my own way through the years – and I even recently was featured as an expert on building habits in Leo Babauta’s Habit Mastery Course because I did over time build up the habit of finding and feeling gratitude. But as with anything that is practiced enough, it eventually becomes your default rather than something you need to work for.

So that is why today, I want to reshare a post I wrote two years ago, just a few months after Scott passed away, on how to begin to build up a gratitude habit. Obviously, this is timely with the Thanksgiving Holiday here in the United States, but I honestly believe with my whole heart that we all have far more to be grateful for than we have to complain about, but sometimes we just need to see things differently and take a moment to notice, pause and appreciate that instead of just mindlessly moving through our days.

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 ~

So hopefully these 25 questions, will not only get you thinking but also begin to get you to the point of truly feeling the magnitude of the many gifts we have in our daily lives that we never even had to ask for, but we get by simply being here…

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.

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. FYI: I am currently taking a wonderful course in Fizzle called Daily Direction that is all about Gratitude and Productivity! It’s amazing and I highly recommend it!
  • 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 am a learner by example, here is a few minute gratitude session I did recently…

I am grateful for my cozy little studio apartment. Because while it is nice to have a place to call home, the representation of that place is so much more powerful. It means that I have reached a place in my heart where I am excited about building a life, even though that life looks very different than I imagined. But my journey over the past few years has taught me to stop comparing and appreciate the beauty that lies in difference. It is not even possible to compare one versus the other because it is in the difference that there is beauty in each.

I am grateful to have a place where I set down footprints deep enough that even after leaving to do what I needed to do for almost 3 years, I was able to come right back in and be welcomed with open arms. My Dailey Method community, my Crossfit community and my friends and family embraced me so warmly upon my return to SF. Having been supported while away only to return to a place I feel I belong reassured me that we are always going to be ok when we listen to our hearts.

I am grateful for this unbelievable mechanism I get to exist in every single day. Our body is truly a miracle and the fact that I get to live and move in this thing that performs more that we could ever imagine without me ever having to ask it to, leaves me in awe.

I am grateful for the beauty I get to see (and that I can see it!) simply by stepping outside. Just this past Saturday, I experienced love, laughter and joy with girlfriends, I walked down the street and saw two humans madly in love with life and each other and then continued my day only to experience a beautiful sunset. Even though it is easy to focus on all that isn’t right in the world, there is so much beauty in every single day, we just have to stop only seeing the big things and take the time to appreciate the small things (which actually are big things).

I am grateful for all that I have been able to feel in this life. Even though some of it was pain, I believe that being able to feel deeply, whether that be pain or joy is part of the gift of this human experience. And when we learn to let go, it allows us to fully embrace that we are able to feel so deeply – and learn to appreciate all that it does for us, without attachment right and wrong.

And I am beyond grateful for the limitless nature of love. I believe is that love is the language of the human spirit. It’s in our nature. It is something we are capable of before we have learned anything at all. It may not have words and it cannot be seen or measured or touched, but we know it exists because it can be felt. It comes in many different forms but there is no denying that it disregards logic and physical boundaries. It is expansive by nature and in turn, allows us to connect to one another, no matter what. And by learning that we always have the choice to lead with love over fear, my heart has shown me that love is not bound to a singular definition – but rather it is capable of expanding in a myriad of ways.

So here’s to getting grateful,

Chelsea Dinsmore

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” - Jim Rohn