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3 Ways To Be Present To Foster Gratitude    

3 Ways To Be Present To Foster Gratitude

First of all, if you’re not feeling very grateful right now - that’s okay.

Just remember that feeling doesn’t have to be permanent. Our brains are conditioned to follow patterns. So even if we aren’t currently in the habit of practicing gratitude, we can, through practice, train our minds to be grateful. The more you practice, the more your brain will recognize the benefits that come from positive emotions and reduced anxiety. 

Few gratitude practices are more impactful than being present. When we talk about being present, what we mean is being aware of the current moment. This is also referred to as mindfulness, and it is helpful because it allows us to calmly acknowledge our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances without judgement. 

An important part of being present involves being attuned to the emotional side of gratitude. Envy, cynicism, and narcissism are thieves of gratitude. When you experience these emotions, first acknowledge them (our How Are You Feeling series can help). Then challenge those feelings by identifying something you are grateful for to counter the negative emotion. 

Over time, your brain gets used to this approach, and gratitude becomes your default state.

How To Be More Present

Mindfulness, which is another way to describe being present, is the answer to a lot of mental health questions for good reason. Mindfulness has countless positive benefits. That’s especially true when it comes to fostering gratitude.

There are a few specific mindfulness practices that can really help with gratitude:

  • Savoring
    Savoring is sometimes referred to as “the lesser-known cousin of mindfulness.” Savoring involves consciously redirecting your attention to whatever brings you positive feelings. A simple, COVID-friendly way to practice this is with a Savoring Walk. Take a 20-minute walk around the block with the intention to notice as many things as you can. Rather than listening to a podcast or getting lost in your thoughts, try to notice the sights, smells, and sounds that pull you in. Take time to identify the things that bring you joy and then savor them. This results in By training the mind to find the positive, the brain gradually becomes rewired to better handle stress. 
  • Mental Subtraction
    Mental subtraction is a thought experiment where you pinpoint one event in your life and play the “What if” game. Pick a positive event in your life and think about how your life would be if that event never occurred. You can also try the same thing with a seemingly negative event that ended up having a positive effect. Doing so, helps the mind find gratitude in situations that it may have previously viewed as traumas. This means that in the future, your brain can deal with present circumstances with awareness and flexibility. 
  • Noticing Comparisons
    As we mentioned, envy is a thief of gratitude. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of comparisons you make, particularly on social media. If you measure yourself against someone’s best moment of their day, it isn’t apples-to-apples. That comparison is unfair to your journey because it omits important context. Check yourself when this happens and think more holistically about what you’re comparing in order to begin developing a healthier self-narrative and a greater sense of gratitude for your own journey. (And if that leads to unfollowing an account, so be it.)

Remember, if you’re new to this, simply staying present is enough. There is no “wrong” way to tap into mindfulness. If you find yourself in a calm and present state reading, painting your nails, listening to music, or going on a walk, that counts. The gratitude will come. 

Additional Resources

To learn more about being present to foster gratitude, check out some of these resources:

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.