4 Steps to Living a More Grateful Life

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We live in a world full of distractions – emails, social media, meetings – you get the picture! Among all of these distractions, it can be hard to sit down and find time to be grateful. Gratitude is appreciation of something that is beneficial to you, but which you didn’t cause. However, if you know the four steps that cause gratitude, you might be more likely to show thanks. Read on to learn what these four research-based steps are and how you might use them in your life!

Recognize What You Have to Be Grateful For

As you go through the course of your day, it can be easy to focus on the negative in life. If something bad happens, it can take a lot of mental energy to address it. Simply multitasking can be stressful. When all of your energy is directed toward solving problems or checking tasks off of your list, you might overlook the good around you. Focusing on and savoring benefits in your environment helps you to register their value in a more meaningful way.

For example, maybe you’re in the middle of an important meeting and someone passes you a bottle of water because they realize you’re getting parched. You might be so focused on what you’re saying that, without skipping a beat, you grab the water and keep going. But, taking time to recognize that your coworker actually cared about your well-being and reflecting on the value of their actions can help you to become more thankful. Overall, it’s important to keep your mind open and to remain broadly aware of the good things that are happening to you. If you close yourself off too much, you won’t even know what benefits you have to be grateful for!

you need to see benefits to be grateful
In order to be grateful, you have to see the benefits all around you first!

Recognizing the Cost of a Benefit to Others Spurs Gratitude

It’s not enough just to recognize that good things are happening around you though. You also have to realize that a good deed done by someone else toward you takes time and energy out of their lives too. So, if you don’t take time to actually envision the act from their perspective, you might not be as grateful. The old adage of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” turns out to be right!

For example, if someone takes time to help you out with a task at work, you might thank them and recognize the benefit. But, you’ll feel more grateful if you put yourself in their shoes, imagine their busy schedule, and then think about the sacrifices they made to help you. In other words, you need to see both the benefit you received AND the cost of that benefit to someone else in order to truly understand the value of their actions.

being grateful means seeing the cost
Being grateful means seeing the costs of others’ actions! Help isn’t free!

Acceptance Makes You Grateful

Beyond recognizing the costs and benefits of others’ actions toward you, you also have to be willing to admit that you needed the help. If you think that the act helped you, and you recognize it was costly, that doesn’t mean you accept that you needed it. Our own pride can get in the way of whether or not we truly and fully accept help from others. If you can’t admit that you needed the help, and recognize its full value to you, then you won’t be as grateful as you might be.

If a coworker switches shifts with you because you had a work-life conflict, you might realize the benefit and cost. But, without reflecting on how much you needed help and what it means to you, you won’t be as grateful. Maybe you wouldn’t have been able to spend time with your family or attend an important life event without help. So, taking time to admit that you needed help allows you to realize its impact.

grateful because you know you need help
It’s ok to admit that you need help! We all do.

You Can’t Be Grateful If You Don’t See the Good in Others

It’s easy to be cynical when others help you. Maybe they’re just doing it to make themselves look good! But, if you approach benefits from others with a negative lens, you can’t be grateful for their help. So, it’s important to see their intent for what it is. In some cases, people do help to get themselves ahead. But, that’s not usually the case! Seeing the help for what it actually is – an act of self-sacrifice to make your life better – allows you to complete the fourth step to being a more grateful person.

For example, if someone helps you with something, but you are suspicious of their help, you will become bitter. Instead of being able to see their actions as helpful, you just see them as self-serving. Seeing their acts as more other-oriented and less selfish, helps you to complete the gratitude cycle successfully! The way we view the meaning of acts at work matters in general at work. But, this meaning may be particularly important when it comes to workplace emotions like gratitude.

What tips do you have for enhancing gratitude? We have talked about being thankful before, if that helps jog your thoughts. Let us know what you think below. We’d love to hear how you have become more thankful at work!

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