Have a Grateful Day!: Using Gratitude to Improve Your Life

Written by Dani DiPirro of Positively Present


As the woman behind the counter handed me my grocery-filled bag, she smiled and said, “Have a grateful day!”

Taking hold of the bag, I paused, both surprised and delighted to hear the word grateful in place of great. “You too!” I said, beaming at her from the other side of the counter.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably the type of person who is well-aware that gratitude is valuable, important, and essential. It’s been shown to positively impact our relationships (both with ourselves and with others), to enhance our careers, and even to improve physical health! Even if you can list the benefits of gratitude (of which there are many!), actually making good use of gratitude isn’t always so straightforward.

Around this time of year, you’ll see more and more articles about gratitude popping up, but gratitude isn’t apple picking or pumpkin decorating; it shouldn’t be considered a seasonal activity.

Many understand the good vibes that come along with sending a thank you note, expressing gratitude for a kind deed, or reflecting on our good fortune when seated at the Thanksgiving Day table, but but sometimes we forget the many additional ways gratitude can be of use to us every single day.

Here are a few of the many ways you can use gratitude to connect with yourself, augment your relationships with others, and make your life more vibrant!

Use gratitude to center yourself.

One of the greatest moments to channel gratitude is when you’re feeling upset, angry, frustrated, or worried. In that moment, ask yourself, “What is working right now? What one thing can I be thankful for?” Simply by identifying one thankworthy thing, you’ll create a sense of internal calm that will help you while tackling tough emotions. Gratitude doesn’t make the hard stuff disappear, but it makes it much easier to cope with.

Use gratitude to be more mindful.

When struggling to live in the moment (as many of us often are!), gratitude can be a go-to resource for bringing your attention back to the now. If you find yourself getting caught up thinking about the past or worrying about the future, turn your attention to what’s happening in the present moment and be grateful for what you’re currently experiencing. Even if you don’t love it, you are here, and that in itself is pretty amazing.

Use gratitude to enhance relationships.

Nothing makes a relationship better than when you are truly grateful for the other person. All relationships -- with friends, partners, colleagues, family, etc. -- have ups and downs, but when turn your focus toward gratitude, you’ll be much more likely to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. This will help make the challenging times more manageable and the good times even better.

Use gratitude to motivate yourself.

Ever have those days when it seems like nothing gets crossed off your to-do list? You’re not alone. But you can combat unmotivated moments with gratitude. Rather than focusing on what you’ve yet to do, write a list of all the things you’re grateful to have accomplished. Doing so will remind you that you are capable of things and that can be the boost you need to get going!

Use gratitude to overcome obstacles.

Life is really tough times, but when you direct your energy and attention to what you have (rather than what you lack), the trials you’re facing appear less like insurmountable mountains and more like manageable molehills. Gratitude provides perspective, which is what you need most when you’re struggling to keep climbing.

Use gratitude to improve your health.

Gratitude has a ton of psychological benefits, but it can also improve your physical health, too. So much of stress is caused by thinking about what we want (or think we should want). Lower stress levels by taking note of what you already possess -- your unique abilities, your relationships with loved ones, your favorite book. This will help lower stress, which will greatly improve your overall health.

Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool. You can use it to focus your attention on anything you want to home in on. If what you focus on is up to you, why not make good use of that brilliant mind of yours and focus on gratitude? Gratitude won’t always be the easiest choice, but keep this in mind: you’ve probably never heard anyone say, “Man, I wish I hadn’t been so grateful! What a waste of time!” There’s a reason for that. Gratitude is powerful, productive, and positive, and the more you have of it in your life, the better your life will become.

All illustrations by Dani DiPirro