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The Gratitude Guide: 14 Practical Ways to Practice

Photo by Tonglé Dakum
Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough. ~Oprah Winfrey

A few months ago, I was going through one of the hardest times of my life: Within the span of a few weeks, I had to find and move to a new apartment suddenly, suffered a devastating personal loss of a close family member, and was having some serious health problems.

Every day when I woke up, it felt like life was becoming increasingly hectic. I found myself wondering, “When will it end?”

Eventually, after countless hours of kindly giving me a listening ear through all the troubles, my best friend reminded me how important it is to take stock of all the good things I still had in my life. When things became crazy, I’d become too content to focus on how bad things seemed instead.

How to Be Grateful When You Aren’t Feeling It

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Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~William Arthur Ward

You want to be grateful for what you have, but if you cut straight to the truth? You aren’t feeling it.

For a lot of people, acknowledging that truth brings with it immediate shame — the shame of knowing that in a world where so many people go homeless or hungry; or are hurt, abandoned, or abused; or are dealing with a serious illness or the death of a loved one, not feeling grateful is very, very bad.

So, we try gratitude on. “Okay,” we say, tossing our hair back and squaring our shoulders. “Let me focus on gratitude. Here I go.”

We think of 10 things to be grateful for, and then … deep breath … it is still there, that subtle and abiding sense of low-grade disappointment or sadness or disconnection from yourself or the world.

It can be the ultimate lose-lose scenario. If you push yourself to feel grateful when you know that it’s not happening on a core level, you feel like a phony. If you aren’t grateful, then …well, you’re ungrateful. No bueno.

31 Promises to Change Your Life

Photo by Lauren Hammond
It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go. ~Bob Proctor

As a young girl, I learned early that I was different. I heard family members talking; I heard the mean taunts and the comments about my mother. I was constantly compared to a woman I knew nothing about.

Every time I did something wrong or didn’t get something right, I would brace for the barrage of insults and name calling. The most popular one was “You are going to be just like your mother.” No one had to tell me what that meant. I figured that out early when, at four years old, my cousin nicely told me I would never amount to anything.

I promised myself that I would prove everyone wrong. I would become someone. I worked harder in school and most of all, I did all I could to please everyone I came in contact with. I wanted to make everyone like me and not see the side that my family members saw.

How to Be More Confident

Photo by Lauren Hammond
When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things. ~Joe Namath

I was so far outside of my comfort zone it was hard to believe I even had one. I thought just turning up to my first Toastmasters International meeting was the hard bit.

I was wrong. I realized all of the things I had read about being confident and fun around new people was about to be put to the test …

I used to wish I could stroll into a new social situation and feel completely comfortable. I wanted to be able to talk with new people, share my ideas and opinions with an open heart. I wanted my new acquaintances to love my openness, and I wanted to admire them for adding to the momentum of the conversation.

I longed for the day every new interaction would begin like this, and everyone in the room would be drawn to my humor, confidence and insight like magnets. I wanted to leave these new situations filled with excitement because I shared myself openly; I remained true to myself and, most importantly, had fun.

7 Ways to Stay Positive Around Negative People

Photo by Daniel Zedda
It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts. ~Dr. Robert H. Schuller

Have you ever felt trapped in a negative, toxic environment? Did you feel overwhelmed by the negativity, and were you unable to shield yourself from it?

If so, you’re not alone.

Some time ago, I was in an environment that was so toxic that I almost quit my job. I was trapped among endless gossip, mean-spiritedness and backstabbing. I worked every day feeling like I was in self-preservation mode.

My character is strong, resilient and caring, but my work environment made me question that. I thought my positivity would spread to others and be enough to at least slightly improve their outlook — right?

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

How to Find Your Life’s Purpose Today

Photo by Daniel Zedda
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.

The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.

Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.

There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.

Stop Limiting Yourself & Start Living

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The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible. ~Arthur C. Clarke

It’s said that there’s a common, first-year art major exercise where the teacher divides students into two groups and gives each group a different assignment.

The first group must study how to throw a perfect pot on a potter’s wheel and spend one week perfecting the process so as to get the proportions just right.

They are to create one pot and refine as they go, in pursuit of creating one perfect final work. In essence, they are to create systemically, according to a system or plan.

The second group’s assignment is to simply throw a lot of clay on the potter’s wheel, making multitudes upon multitudes of pots.

At the end of the week they are to choose which one is best, of the many they have created. In essence, they are to create “prolifically,” or in abundance.

At the end of the week, the art teacher assesses their work. Guess which group tends to turn out better work?

The group that creates prolifically. Guess which group has more fun?

The group that creates prolifically.

4 Lessons on Feeling Happy

Photo by Marcy Kellar
Be content with what you have; rejoice in where you are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. ~Lao Tzu

As a conscious gal who’s committed to deepening my relationship with Self and helping others do the same, I’ve learned some potent lessons about the World’s Most-Wanted, elusive state of happiness.

Most often it’s our own expectation and longing for that happy-gassed state that’s actually the culprit of our suffering. The stronger our craving and attachment to the stuff, the less of it we get.

See happiness — like any emotion — checks in and checks out on the regular. It peaks and it wanes and then it doubles back to you.

I used to fret and dread the absence of happiness. I’d perpetuate the darkness by fearing it intensely. Like a dysfunctional relationship, my neediness only repelled the very stuff I wanted for. I’d cling on when happiness arrived, and I’d cry when it left.

How to Be More Optimistic

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If pessimism is despair, optimism is cowardice and stupidity, is there any need to choose between them?” ~Francis Parker Yockey

On one of my husband and my first camping trips together, we were walking down a wooded trail next to a crisp mountain river. The heat was severe, as it was mid-August.

“Ugh,” my husband said. “This heat is so oppressive.”

“Yeah, but we’re about to go swimming,” I replied. “Don’t be so pessimistic.”

“The difference between my pessimism and your optimism is that I’m optimistic about the big things and you’re only optimistic about the small things,” he replied. “I think my pessimism is better than your optimism.”

I hated to admit it, but he was right. I would worry constantly about whether our relationship was working but blindly skip along, happy to ignore the 100 degree heat.

Before that I used to think everyone should be an optimist, but I don’t think that’s really what we should all be aiming for.

4 Tips for Being Yourself

Photo by Alba Soler
Let go of who you think you should be and embrace who you are. ~Brené Brown

Do you ever fear that who you are isn’t enough — you put on a mask and become someone you’re not to avoid rejection?

This has been me for most of my life. From a young age I never felt as though I was good enough. Growing up as an introvert surrounded by extroverts was what first got me questioning myself.

Everyone seemed to love the opposite of what I was. I felt unloved, and I became ashamed of myself.

This was the beginning of many years of self-destruction. I so desperately wanted to be accepted and loved by others. I did whatever it took to be what I thought people wanted to see. Even if it wasn’t in line with who I was and what I truly valued.

I hid behind a mask. I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. It was my protection from allowing people to get to know the real me so I could avoid rejection. This is how I lived for 23 years.

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