Day 4: Gratitude

What are you grateful for?

You’ve had a bad day. Your co-workers were combative, your partner was irritable, you spilled coffee on your shirt, and you got stuck in traffic.

In fact it would feel great right now to just have a full on killer bitch session about all the problems in your life. So go ahead! Spend a couple seconds right now thinking of all the things that sucked about today.

Ok, done? How do you feel? Grumpy, irritable, tired, frustrated?

Now let’s flip that around. Starting at the beginning of your day think of all the things for which you are grateful.

It might start with the warm soft bed you sleep in. Maybe it’s not as nice as you would like, but you are inside and it’s better than a dirt floor.

Then you eat breakfast. Here you are with a bounty of food in front of you. So many people worked to bring this food to you. They planted seeds, grew grains, harvested, processed, packed, and trucked the food to a store where you could choose from a ton of different types of food. Amazing.

Then you get in your car or on your bike. Someone invented this. One day no car or bike the next BAM amazing efficient transportation.

As you go throughout your day notice the kindness people show. Notice all of the blessings that make your lifejust a little bit easier than it could be.

Ok now how do you feel? Warmer, calmer, more open?

Gratitude is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to create happiness in your life. And this isn’t just conjecture. There’s actual science that backs it up.

In a study performed at the University of California, three groups of participants were asked to do some writing:

  • One group wrote about things they were grateful for.
  • Another group wrote about things that annoyed them.
  • The last group wrote about things that had affected them (with no emphasis on good or bad).

After 10 weeks those who wrote about gratitude reported feeling more optimistic and happy. In addition researchers discovered the following connections:

  • Practicing gratitude is easier than you think. When asked to rate their gratitude on a scale of 1 to 7, participants rated it as a 6.
  • Gratitude improves your well being. Practicing gratitude creates more positive emotions including satisfaction and optimism. Plus it can help you feel fewer negative ones.
  • It won’t turn you into PollyAnna. Being grateful won’t cause you to ignore or avoid the challenges in life.
  • Gratitude improves your attitude towards others. If you’re grateful you will improve your ability to be more empathic, generous, and helpful to others.
  • Gratitude improves your spirituality. The study found that people who practice some form of religion had a greater capacity for gratitude, because they were more likely to feel a stronger sense of community and connection.
  • Gratitude decreases materialism. People who practice gratitude are less likely to value material things or measure their success in terms of material wealth. They were also more likely to share what they had with others.


Ok now that you’ve read the research it’s time to try it out yourself. Here is your challenge for today (if you choose to accept it).

  1. Practice – Sometime today take out your happiness journal or a fresh piece of paper and write down: 3 things you are grateful for And one positive event you experienced today. The 3 things can be new things in your life or they can be things you often rely on. Very often my daily list of 3 things includes my cat, my partner, and sweet sweet coffee. Your positive event can be any good thing that happened to you big or small. I’ve written about great workouts, smiles from strangers, and giving a great talk to a large group.
  2. Reflect – Reflect on how you feel. Did this practice help you feel better about your day and the things in your life? Did you notice anything you were grateful for that surprised you? Did you have a hard time coming up with 3 things to write? Whatever it is, take a moment and become aware of how this practice felt. You can even write a short journal entry, email, or blog post about it
  3. Share – Now it’s time to share what your gratitude and your experience with others. So do one or all of the following.
    • Write a blog post about your experience of gratitude or about someone or something you are grateful for. Don’t forget to include a link or trackback to this post or if that’s too complicated post a link in the comments. BONUS: If you were grateful for a living breathing person, send them a link to your post and tell them that you are grateful for them.
    • Write a social media post about one or all of the things you were grateful for and post it via twitter #30dayhappy and/or via facebook on the 30 Day Happiness Challenge Group Page. BONUS: Again if one of these is a person tag them in your post.
    • Share your gratitude list, your positive event, your experience of the challenge, or any questions that this practice brought up for you in the comments below.

Again great work! I’ve loved seeing all of your posts so far and I’m very grateful for every one of you that has joined me on this challenge.

Be Well,


5 Things You Forgot to Be Grateful For

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Be Grateful

5 Things You Forgot to Be Grateful For

I recently finished my month long focus on gratitude practice. Though I have engaged in many types of gratitude practice in the past I enjoyed this month because it helped be realize how important it is to make gratitude part of my daily life.

Here is what I learned

The 5 Blessing of Gratitude

1. People are a Blessing –

Often For a long time I didn’t realize how important the people in my lives were until I lost them. But by practicing gratitude I’ve learned to appreciate these people while they’re still here.

One way I practiced gratitude last month was to send one email a day thanking someone who I know or have known in my life. And with each letter I realized how lucky I was to have these people in my life.

Of all the people in the world, these people came and blessed me. They taught me lessons and gave me strength. They were exactly the people I needed to grow and transform into who I am today.

This month of gratitude has taught me to stop a minute and appreciate the blessing of their kindness and attention.

2. Time is a blessing –

I often think I have more time than I do. More time to get dressed before I go to work, more time to call an old friend, more time to follow my dreams.

But I’ve discovered I usually end up having less time than I want. And because of this I’ve learned I need to cherish the time I have.

This month I practiced cherishing every day by sharing three good things about my day with someone I love. This practice helped me focus on the blessing each day is and kept me from getting caught in the spin of negative thought.

It’s so easy to get caught up in wishing I was someone else, somewhere else. But I’ve learned that by being grateful for where I am I can enjoy my life as it is right now.

3. Space is a blessing –

Sometimes I’m am afraid of empty space. There are time I can’t bear letting silence hang in conversation. Time I can’t stand waiting in line. And time I abhor a moment without something to do.

But this month of gratitude has taught me to appreciate these precious moments of space. Because space is what makes change possible.

This month I practiced being grateful for space by pausing. I found that when I gave myself a moment to breathe so much was possible.

Space is so simple and pure. And yet space is the fertile ground for new ideas and realizations. Space is the place where new wisdom begins to emerge.

By practicing taking a pause, I found that each of these moments is sacred.

The moments spent waiting for the bus are when a solution emerges to the problem you’ve been mulling over. Those moments when you don’t reach for your phone, can reveal how sad you actually feel. And those moments of shared silence can bring you closer then any words if you let them.

4. What I have is a blessing –

Our whole economy is based on the idea of not being happy with what we’ve got. And I’m not just talking about possessions. I’m talking about our bodies, our knowledge, and our lives.

On one hand we all have to work at being better people. On the other hand better selves and better lives start with appreciating where we are now.

This month I practiced being grateful for what I have by reflecting daily on my blessings. As I did this, I realized how rich and abundant my life truly is.

I found that when I can learn to be grateful for this job, this shirt, this set of knowledge, and this life. I also learn to find greater balance and peace in every step along the way.

5. Gratitude is a blessing.

More than anything I learned over this last month that having gratitude is a blessing in itself. It’s not that I need to live a life that rocks, so I can be grateful. It’s that I need to be grateful, in order to live a life that rocks.

The more grateful I am, the more I see my blessings. The more I appreciate my life, the more kind and open I become.
And the more kind and open I am the more things I discover that help me grow.

Now it’s your turn. What are you grateful for?


I also want to thank all of you for sharing your attention span with me. Your time and attention are your most valuable resource and I’m so honored that you share it with me. I promise to honor that with always giving you the best of my self on this blog.


10 Steps to a Grateful Life as Taught by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

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So Grateful!

10 Steps to A Grateful Life

as Taught by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits


Gratitude has an amazing power to free your mind from turmoil. It helps you feel closer to those you love. And to forgive those that you feel conflict with.

Gratitude can make old possessions seem like new. It can make a bad day feel like a blessing. And it can help us rediscover our own innate beauty and perfection.

Gratitude can do all this because practicing it helps us let go of expectations and embrace the present moment.

I recently had the chance to attend a webinar hosted by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and his friend Dirk as part of his Sea Change program. During this webinar, Leo talked about why gratitude was so powerful and offered some simple tips for being more grateful.

No Expectations

Leo noted that gratitude is powerful because it helps us let go of our expectations.

Let’s say you have a dear friend, but you have allot of expectations about how that friend should act and respond to you. Sometimes this friend won’t act the way you expect and so you will often be thinking, “This isn’t a good friend.”

Then imagine that you let go of all these expectations. Now instead of being disappointed, you can just enjoy your friend for who they are. Instead of ‘shoulding’, others we can just practice gratitude for where people are at.

No Comparison

In a similar way Leo points out that gratitude can also free us from comparison.

If you compare yourself to others, you can always find someone who seems to be better off. No matter what measure you use there is always someone with more mindfulness, a more beautiful home, and a more satisfying job.

Often this reality can make us feel bad about ourselves. But gratitude relieves us of the expectation that we should be like other people. And it helps us appreciate where we are right now.


Next Leo offered some simple way to practice gratitude everyday. I’ve also included some of the things I’ve learned about practicing gratitude this month.

1. Be Grateful Morning and Night 


Every morning write down 3 things you are grateful for. I use Evernote to keep my gratitude journal, but you can use any text program or an old notebook.

I also keep a running tally of my entries and review them after every 50th entry. I find this helps me connect with how abundant my life is and keeps encouraging me to practice gratitude on a daily basis.


Every evening share 3 good things about your day. You can share with your significant other, a child, or a family member. Or you can email them to a friend or post them on Facebook.
I also record one of those events each day in a journal. I find that reflecting on a good event from the previous day, helps me have hope that something good will happen again today.

2. Be Grateful For Food

Before each meal I say a short blessing as a way of expressing gratitude.

But Leo notes we can also express gratitude to the people who cooked our food, or sold us our food, or grew our food. We can express gratitude by eating mindfully. And in turn, mindful eating can make us more grateful.

There is a wonderful exercise called looking deeply into your food that is designed to help you do just this. You can find it here.

3. Be Grateful For People 

Before meeting someone we can express internal gratitude for the meeting.

Then while we are meeting instead of trying to convince the other person that you are right. Or just waiting for your turn to talk. We can simply feel grateful for the interaction

Then at the end of a meeting, we can express gratitude in words and later with a quick note or email. Doing this will not only make us more likeable, but will also help us get the most out of being with others.

4. Be Grateful For Challenging People 

Instead of focusing on someone’s faults we can be grateful for their strengths. If we think someone is too chatty, we can be grateful that they want to connect. If we think someone is pushy, we can be grateful that they value action.

If that doesn’t work, we can still try to empathize before we judge them. We can try to understand where they are coming from and be grateful for their perspective.
Even if we decide to limit interaction with a difficult person, we can find gratitude. We can be grateful for the clarity we have that we don’t want to act like this. We can be grateful for knowing that this person isn’t good for us to be around.

5. Be Grateful For Exercise

Exercise can be challenging especially when we get started. But Leo says we can transform that struggle with gratitude. Instead of complaining about exercise, we can try to be grateful that we can move and be active.

In addition, I often encourage my clients to focus on what they can do, instead of what they can’t. For every athlete we see on TV there are a hundred people who don’t even walk a few times a week. Just setting the intention to get more exercise puts you ahead of the curve.

6. Be Grateful For Meditation

Meditation is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves. Even if your mind seems unruly that we can be grateful that we can sit.

We can also be grateful that we have the time to practice. We can be grateful that we found a meditation. And we can be grateful for our intention to find clarity.

7. Be Grateful At Work

At the beginning and end of your day you can express gratitude that you have a job, when so many other people do not.

Email can be annoying, but instead of opening your inbox with dread. Try expressing gratitude that someone emailed you.

Express gratitude to your co-workers or employees by sending one email a day telling them why they rock.

I try to do this each morning. And even though I don’t have co-workers, I find that sending a nice email to a friend or colleague helps me be more kind throughout my day.

8. Be Grateful While Driving

Whenever you drive you can be grateful you have a car. (Or if you’re like me, you can be grateful that you have a bike instead of a car.)

While you are driving, you can be grateful that you have somewhere to go, someone to meet, and the ability to get there.

When you are in traffic, you can be grateful that you are part of such a vibrant productive society. You might even try saying, “We’re all in this together.”

9. Be Grateful During Hard Times

One of the hardest times to be grateful is when you are going through something difficult. For example is someone you know is ill and/or dying.

Even then, gratitude is a great gift to share. You can be grateful for all the time you have spent with them. You can share that gratitude with them and also express it to yourself.

You can be grateful that you can be with them while they are sick. Being present for someone else in pain is such a blessing.

Other times gratitude is hard because we are suffering ourselves, either from illness or sadness. In either case, you can be grateful for the lessons that this challenge is teaching you.

You can be grateful that others are willing to be there with you. You can be grateful that challenge helps you appreciate the good times more. You can be grateful that you are facing this challenge instead of someone else.

10. Be Grateful By Remembering

One key to being grateful is remembering to practice gratitude. Leo recommends 3 ways to ensure help you remember.

  1. Write down what you want to remember to be grateful for. Paying special attention to things you often take for granted.
  2. Make a commitment to someone else to practice gratitude.
  3. When gratitude is hard, imagine losing the things you care about and then imagine them coming back to you.

Imagine you lost your family, friends, shelter, food, possessions, computer, and/or the Internet. Feel the weight of that loss and then feel the joy as these things return to your life.

Gratitude Meditation

At the end of webinar, Leo offered a simple meditation that you can practice almost anywhere. This meditation will help you focus on gratitude and it can give you the energy to carry this gratitude into the day.
First, find a comfortable spot and check in to your body. If it is safe and it’s your practice to do so, close your eyes. Ask yourself how am I feeling?
Notice the answer and then just appreciate your body. Make sure to express appreciation especially for any part of your body that complaining.
Next, notice your breath. Watch as it comes in and out. Ask what qualities does my breath have.
Notice the answer and then just appreciate these qualities no matter what they are.

Next, silently repeat these phrases in your mind.
May I be happy.
May my loved ones be happy.
May my acquaintances, my colleagues, and my work friends be happy.
May the people who give me agitation and even my enemies be happy.
May the entire world be happy.
Then pause and repeat.

You can repeat this meditation as many time as you want to  and can modify it to fit your needs. If any of the phrases is too hard for you to say just leave them out with one exception. Always begin with the phrase, “May I be happy.” It may seem selfish, but without joy in our hearts, we cannot truly offer joy to others.