It’s a word we hear all over and something we’re encouraged to show.
But how do you know if you’re truly practicing gratitude?
Take a look at the list below.
1) You feel it spontaneously
Telling people to feel grateful is stupid. I’m sorry.
I know that it’s well-intentioned and many people seem to value making a conscious effort to be grateful, but it’s not authentic.
True gratitude happens spontaneously and from deep within.
It happens when you’ve already been honest about everything you’re angry and sad about in life.
You can’t be truly grateful if you haven’t wrestled with yourself, with God, with existence.
2) You allow full honesty
Practicing gratitude is about allowing yourself to be completely honest.
It’s accepting your emotions and experiences without them needing to be “pure” or “good.”
Instead of trying to feel gratitude, you should just be aware of it if it comes.
There are a million reasons to be grateful from the air you’re breathing to the people in your life who love you.
But you can’t force yourself to be grateful, you can only cultivate an inner awareness of the blessings in your life.
And this can only come after full honesty about the full range of experiences you’re having, including the difficult ones.
“We risk being insincere if we start trying to feel it. It should come to us naturally…
“If you want to live in gratitude, you first must bring up all your frustration, resentment and anger.
“You must embrace these emotions and have a good argument with whichever God you believe in.”
3) You look honestly at others
Trying to force yourself is about full honesty and allowing gratitude to come but never forcing it.
One of the key ways this is done is by looking honestly at others and silencing the story in your head.
It’s natural that we are the center of our own universe.
I want to survive, and so do you. It’s in our nature.
I prioritize my experiences because they happened to me, you prioritize your experiences because they happened to you.
But within that reality is the fact that we tend to often create stories in which we ourselves are very different, misunderstood, or alone compared to others.
We then take this mindset, which psychologists refer to as confirmation bias, and apply it to other people.
We filter out the people who are struggling, sad, lonely, and pathetic and we idolize those we see who appear to be enjoying a life we don’t have.
The ones with the partner we want, the looks we want, the material success we want.
But what about those many others who feel like they’ve also fallen through the cracks?
4) You delete the narrative
To practice gratitude you need to hit the delete key on any black-and-white narratives in your head.
Of course, we all want to be the winner, the person who gets everything he or she wants, the one who is accepted and loved.
But are we really alone in often not feeling that?
Look around at other people who seem lonely and out of place. Do they not count?
Gratitude often comes when we realize, truly realize, that many people are doing much worse than we imagine.
This is not to say that some people aren’t happier, healthier, sexier, or fitter. Of course, they are.
But when you compare yourself with others who are doing better than you, or who you imagine are, you disempower yourself and build them into an idol.
Why can’t I have what they have?
Part of the reason is that you just otherized the supposedly successful into an unattainable idol and also dismissed the many others for whom you might be their ideal of success and happiness.
It’s a vicious cycle! Gratitude comes when you tap out of the jealousy game.
5) You don’t seek recognition for your gratitude
I’ll be honest:
I don’t know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram and see #gratitude everywhere I feel kind of sick.
- Many times people online are pretending to be grateful in order to brag.
For example, posting a beautiful photo on a beach to show they are having an amazing vacation and their life is better than yours and they’re so #grateful for it and experiencing tropical margarita-bucketfuls of #gratitude about it. Sure.
- Many times online demonstrations of gratitude are about celebrating things we didn’t earn and also which we should be prioritizing personally, such as expressing gratitude for a beautiful boyfriend or girlfriend who loves us.
First, why not focus on telling this to them in person rather than online? Second, it should be clear this can make other people feel a bit cringed out.
- Expressing #gratitude as a way to gain likes and get more popular is actually a low-key way to boost your ego and try to be “better” than others and more grateful than others.
This is the opposite of what truly practicing gratitude is about.
Gratitude isn’t something you show off about.
It’s something you feel, and sometimes something you do as well.
It’s not a contest.
Being grateful doesn’t make you superior or more spiritually “pure.”
Gratitude is worth it for its own sake and is a beautiful, powerful emotion. Gratitude is its own reward.
If you’re truly feeling grateful there is no need to post all about it on social media and harvest likes like a rabid dopamine farmer.
6) You bring your gratitude into action
Feeling gratitude in your heart and soul is a great thing.
But gratitude ultimately becomes more than just a feeling. It becomes actions.
It becomes about giving back to others in your life and taking joy from giving.
Helping somebody find a job because you can and expecting and wanting absolutely nothing back.
Listening to a friend going through a hard time and being a shoulder to cry on because you’ve been where they are now.
Helping your sibling move even when you don’t always get along with them, but you want to give back and spend time with them.
This is real gratitude:
Genuine, unforced, spontaneous, giving, and without any strings or bragging attached.
Gratitude for real
Real gratitude is internal. It’s what you feel when you wake up and the sun is shining in and you stretch and pour a cup of coffee and feel glad to be alive.
Practicing gratitude is ultimately a reflex and a real experience rather than a “habit” or something you try to do.
If you’re trying to be grateful, you’re doing it wrong.
True gratitude is spontaneous, unconditional, and authentic.
You’d feel it even if you didn’t want to because it’s happening inside you as a natural reaction to appreciation for this amazing adventure called life.