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Active Gratitude: The Surprising Power of Giving Thanks

November 21, 2018

Not everyone eats turkey, there are about a thousand different recipes for cranberry relish, and we may all have our own opinions about Brussels sprouts. Chances are, though, if you celebrate Thanksgiving, your traditions include some form of…well, giving thanks. We take time to reflect on the things in our lives for which we feel grateful, and while it’s wonderful that our calendars come pre-loaded with a designated day for that, it’s probably something we should be doing every other day of the year, too.

As cliché as it may sound to count your blessings, active gratitude may be seriously beneficial to your health and well being. Gratitude is an emotion, but it’s also a practice, which means that typically, the more time we put into it, the easier and more rewarding it becomes. Here are a few simple tips to help you live a happier, healthier, more grateful life!


Shift Your Perspective


When we’re unhappy, our instinct is often to assume something is missing. So we keep buying things and accumulating activities until we’ve built a fortress of failed attempts around ourselves, and when that doesn’t work, we may feel worse than we did when we started, because we’ve cluttered our homes and our schedules to the point that we can hardly breathe.

Next time you feel the urge to add something new to your life in the quest for happiness, consider stepping back, refocusing, and taking inventory of what’s already in front of you. Sometimes we get so accustomed to what we have that we forget to be thankful for it, and reaffirming our gratitude for the things that are already good in our lives can be a powerful experience and a huge step toward a higher level of happiness.

OK, we know…easier said than done, right? Read on for some ideas to help put the action in active gratitude!


If you have trouble resetting your perspective, you might think about building a meditation practice. If you’re feeling skeptical because an image of someone sitting lotus-style on a silk cushion popped into your head, and you know that’s not for you, don’t write it off just yet! Meditation comes in many different forms…it can be as simple as taking three deep breaths before you react, taking a few moments to specifically acknowledge what you’re thankful for, or doing a “silver lining” meditation in which you look for a positive side to things that you’re worried about or irritated by.

Check out this article and the 5-minute guided gratitude meditation at the end if you’re not quite sure where to start!




Whether you consider it part of your meditation practice or a freestanding activity, keeping a gratitude journal may help lower your stress levels and boost happiness. Bringing awareness to the joy in your life can increase its impact, and when you write it down, you get the additional benefit of being able to refer back to that joy on the days when you’re struggling to find it.

If writing isn’t your strong suit, consider a bullet journal format or just a simple log of positive thoughts and gratitude quotes that resonate with you.


Gratitude Jar


Making and maintaining a gratitude jar is fun at any age, but it’s a particularly great way to express thanks if you have kiddos! A quick Pinterest search should yield plenty of inspiration, but the general idea is that you take a jar, write down things for which you’re grateful on little slips of paper, and drop them in said jar. On a schedule of your choosing (or just when the jar fills up), you can empty out the slips, read them out loud, and feel thankful all over again!

If you’re doing this exercise as a family, you might consider having each family member use a different color of paper. This not only adds to the visual appeal of your jar, but also makes it easy to sort out the slips when it’s time to share. You could even take it one step further and paste all the notes into scrapbooks…preferably using archival materials, because how awesome would it be to create a legacy of gratitude?!

Rose, Thorn & Bud


Maybe your “grateful” definition is a bit more complex. If you want to practice active gratitude, but all the methods above sound a little too full of rainbows and unicorns for your taste, you might try a more balanced approach, like this “Rose, Thorn, Bud” activity. You can customize it to fit your needs and preferences, but essentially, you express one thing that you categorize as a positive event or experience (the rose), one thing that you perceive as a challenge, obstacle, or irritation (the thorn), and one new idea or goal that you’d like to develop or work toward (the bud).

This way, you acknowledge opportunity as well as celebrating success. How’s that for practical gratitude?

Give Thanks Daily


This Thanksgiving, enjoy the traditions of the holiday, but look at the bigger picture as well. Zoom out until you can see the warm glow rising from the fourth Thursday of November, and then think about ways you can break down the borders around each day on your calendar and let gratitude flood the entire year. We can be thankful for our families, our friends, the food on our tables, and SO MUCH MORE every single day of our lives.

Increased peace of mind is something that many of us would be grateful to feel, and knowing that your loved ones and your legacy are better protected with life insurance can contribute to that feeling. We know the holidays are a busy time, but it only takes a few minutes to get a no-commitment quote from Our Life Covered℠!

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!


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