How To Find the Gratitude

Oprah says the secret to happiness is gratitude. But that might be a lot easier when your life looks like Oprah’s. Sometimes, being grateful every day is hard.

It’s universally accepted that human nature makes us focus more on the bad than the good. Presumably, this was helpful when we needed to remember which forest plants would kills us and where we last saw that hungry lion. Nowadays, however, it’s really a hindrance to our well-being. 

So, because evolution is slow and incorrigible (we really could have used that tail!), you may need some real-world tips on how you can shift your mindset. To that end, we did not ask Oprah for her advice—we asked you, our dear readers, instead. Thank you for sharing.

  • Walk outside. Stand under a tree. Look up. 
  • Go snuggle your dog. Turns out, people who have dogs to cuddle with are happier than those who have…turtles. Or hamsters. (Those things bite.)
  • Look up at the sky, out at the ocean, or at the mountains. Realize that you are a tiny part of an infinite world, and that you are lucky to just be here to see it.
  • Go biking, skiing, surfing, running, walking…Get outside and exercise.
  • Take a few minutes out of each day to pay attention to your five senses. Does that sun on your arm feel good? What does the air outside smell like? What do you hear? Getting out of your head and into your body can help you feel grateful for being alive.

  • Look at the patterns of a pinecone. Let your mind be blown by the wonders of nature.
  • Embrace the suck. “Amor fati” is Latin for “to love fate,” and it means to love and accept all aspects of life, including the painful parts. Understand that suffering and joy are inextricably linked, pain will make you more profound, and that without struggle, you cannot find strength. (Also, you’ll get to name drop Nietzsche and Camus, which sure makes us feel happy.)
  • Rollerblade. Everywhere. 
  • Don’t think about the totality of your life—think about it as a series of small goals. (There’s a reason Alcoholics Anonymous uses the saying, “one day at a time.”) If you only think about your destination, you may be overwhelmed and tempted to give up before you start.
  • Think of your life not as a problem to be solved, but an adventure to be had.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. We know, this one is from Oprah (and that she has her own line of “gratitude journals” that sell for a stiff $30 on Amazon), but most people agree this works. Write down three things each morning or evening that you’re grateful for—even if it’s things like clean running water or health insurance.

  • Mediate. Even five minutes a day makes a difference. And for those who struggle to get to that mindful place, try an app that talks you through it. Studies show it helps with depression, aging, stress, anxiety, addiction, etc.
  • Life is a little bit like that game Whack-a-Mole: You fix one problem and another pops up. So don’t try to figure it all out at once—just get one of those little buggers at a time.
  • Help others.
  • Watch your language. We rarely pay attention to the way we talk to ourselves, and those messages can be insidious. So stop being your own worst enemy: Find things you admire about yourself and dole out the compliments. 
  • Go outside, chop wood, enjoy the satisfying sound, stack it neatly, and admire your stack.
  • When you’re really struggling to find the light, remember that the “pursuit of happiness” might not be the only goal worth having. (Otherwise we’d all spend every day lying around in the sunshine drinking wine.) There is merit in suffering—and no growth ever happens without a little pain.

  • Make your bed in the morning. Trust us, it just works.
  • Go have happy hour with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. 
  • Put in an extra 5% to everything you do. Take the extra two minutes to plate a dinner nicely, put a lemon slice in your water, add a personal note to an email, to start your car early so it’s warm. The tiny bit of added effort brings so much happiness. 

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