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3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude and Boost Your Happiness

Grateful woman

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

Living in India for more than two years now has been an eye opening experience for me, as I’ve realized how I used to take so many things for granted. While growing up and living in my home country (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in Europe, I was lacking gratitude for all the blessings that surrounded me.

While sitting in our penthouse apartment in the New Delhi suburbs, in an air-conditioned room, still feeling the need to chill with a cool water or a mango shake due to the intense heat (which can reach up to 118° in the summer), I could observe the construction ground across from our building.

Constructions workers would come in at 9am and work for twelve hours, with only a short lunch break, without proper safety equipment, chilled water, or any shaded cover to rest.

While they’d wipe sweat from their face, I’d imagine how hot they must be feeling, as I was sweating even in an air-conditioned room.

Some of them were working together with their wives, who would help them earn their daily wage (equal to $1).

These women would carry piles of cement and bricks on big pots on their head, from one side of the construction site to another, sometimes climbing many stairs as well. In my home country, I never saw women working on construction grounds or carrying such heavy loads on their heads.

Their children would play in front of the construction ground with sand and small rocks, as their parents could not afford to send them to school.

I thought about how, in my home country, children often complain that they “have to” go to school and people complain about how tough their jobs are. These people in New Delhi could not even dream of sending their children to school or having an eight-hour job in an air-conditioned office.

The wives who didn’t work on the construction ground would work in our building as maids. One of them cleaned our home. Every day she came in with a water bottle, which she’d cool in our refrigerator, as they did not have an electricity, not to mention a refrigerator, in the slum where she lived with her family.

After cleaning our home, she’d run back to hers with a chilled water bottle in her hands, almost losing her breath, as if she was afraid the heat might warm that water before she would return. Then she wouldn't be able to cool her small children, who were waiting in the heat in a slum without a fan.

Since that day, I never look at the ice cubes in my drink the same way I once did. Ice cubes were just pieces of frozen water, until I saw that for some people, even chilled water is a luxury! Ice cubes are a symbol of wealth and abundance to me now.

I suddenly became grateful for all the things I am blessed with in my life, even the small things, like ice cubes, chilled water, nutritious food, a fan, an air-conditioner, mosquito repellent in the night, clean running water in my home, electricity—not to mention the “big” things, like an opportunity to get educated, to grow up in a beautiful home, which was warm in winters and cool in summers, my job, the power to choose my own husband.

I never thought I should be grateful for choosing my husband. Yet, in a place where arranged marriages are still tradition, I realized that it was a blessing that I was born and raised in an environment where I could fall in love with a man and choose to marry him.

Although arranged marriages do work here, and I see people fall in love after marriage, or at least create a relationship based on kindness, mutual respect, and care, I feel so grateful every day that I had a chance to choose the man I thought was the right for me, with my parents’ blessing and best wishes.

We often take the things we have for granted, yet in many other parts of the world, there are people who would feel blessed and happy if they could enjoy them on a daily basis.

If we just take a look around us we could find so many things to be grateful for.

Some of the practices that can help us to cultivate the feeling of gratitude in our life include:

1. Gratitude journaling.

Keeping a gratitude journal, where we note all the things (or at least three things) we feel grateful for every day, can be a powerful reminder of how blessed we are.

Noting down even simple things—like a delicious dinner we enjoyed, a warm home, a cup of tea or coffee, time spent with our beloved—can be a powerful practice to keep us grounded in a positive mindset on a daily basis.

2. Creating a list of possibilities and blessings.

It helps to write a list of all the things we are blessed with, things we usually see as givens, that in other parts of the world are not available to many people.

So many women around the world still do not have the right or the opportunity to get educated, and so many children cannot attend school or University due to lack of financial resources. According to WHO, 12.9 percent of the world's population (over 1 billion people) is undernourished and will probably go to bed hungry tonight.

Millions of people around the world do not have an access to clean, running water and electricity, which in Western countries we usually take for granted.

Having a roof over our head, a warm room, a meal on our plate, a degree or opportunity to go to University, electricity lighting our home, and cool water in summers are all big reasons we can feel grateful every single day.

3. Shifting our perception.

Instead of feeling sad and frustrated about being single, we can look at this same circumstance from another perspective—as the freedom to be able to choose our partner and wait until we find the right one. This simple shift can help us move from a negative emotional state to a state of gratitude.

In the same way, we can shift our perception of looking at other things, like the job that we don’t like or our living conditions.

When we catch ourselves complaining about housework, we can see it as a blessing that we have our own home and, as a result, clean it with gratitude.

Instead of feeling annoyed that we have to cook dinner, we can feel grateful that we’re able to afford groceries. We can also consider it a blessing that, in this modern era, we do not need to manually wash our dishes or clothes.

When we catch ourselves complaining about the job we hate or feel bored with, we can feel grateful that we have a job and regular income that can pay our bills.

We can also be grateful for small things, like air conditioning in our office, having weekends off, or the fact that we don’t need to be exposed to harsh weather conditions or safety threats every day, like so many people in other corners in the world.

There's nothing wrong with trying to achieve more and move ahead in life, but we can never be truly happy if we do not appreciate what we already have.

About Danijela Jokic Vaislay

Danijela Jokic Vaislay is life and confidence coach from Europe, living in India. She is helping women to get the confidence they need and live life infused with happiness, positivity, and success. Click on www.kissofhappiness.com to get tips and free resources to build your confidence and create the happy and fulfilled life. Visit her on Facebook & Instagram.

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  • Thanks for sharing. Travel is definitely a good way to widen our perceptions of the world and how other people do things. Getting “close to nature” through camping is another. Nothing warms the soul quite like a pot of coffee, even ones we normally find gross-tasting, especially after spending the last two days out in the elements in freezing (literally!) weather, as I did. To this day, I still remember how good that coffee tasted and how much of it I drunk (almost the entire pot at IHOP!)

  • Thank you SO much for this post Danijela! Realizing how fortunate we are being citizens of first-world nations is taken for granted consistently.

    I am attempting to teach my pre-teen children to be grateful for all we have, because all children don’t have it as well as they do, though we’re barely middle-class. It’s very easy to overlook the “little things” we have been gifted since birth when we know nothing else. Travel to other parts of the world, as @manspirational:disqus has mentioned, can help us check out privilege.

  • miling—even if it’s a “fake” smile—can help improve your mood. That’s
    because our brains are hardwired to associate the activation of the
    face’s “smile muscles” with actual happiness. When you turn up the
    corners of your mouth your brain physiology will change and you’ll
    automatically feel better

  • Dear Justine, I’m so touched by your comment, thank you for your feedback! I realized myself how many things I was taking for granted in life, not being aware how lucky, blessed and privileged I was.

  • Smile not only can help improve our mood, but the mood of the people around us as well 🙂 When people see us smiling, they feel like smiling as well… If we cultivate gratitude mindset we can always find something to be grateful for and a reason to smile. Thank you for commenting on my article @@sphriachoubey:disqus

  • Thank you @manspirational:disqus for an insightful comment on my article! We can definitely learn so much while traveling and stepping out of our comfort zone and everyday environment, Then only we can feel how much we are missing small things which we were not paying much attention on back at home and we were taking for granted.

  • Joel Scott

    Danijela, this is beautiful.

    I too have travelled to “less fortunate” countries and each time I do, I come back with a new perspective on life. Thank you for the reminder that not everyone is as fortunate as some of us are.

    Take care

  • You are welcome @danijelajokicvaislay:disqus

  • What a beautiful post Danijela,

    We don’t have to travel far these days to understand the places on earth that don’t have water, are hurting, etc. With a few strokes on our keyboards we can actually be there in a way.

    Gratefulness is something when incorporated in our lives make it beautiful. I turn on the kitchen sink and get water for my morning coffee…I’m grateful. I awake and my husband is there next to me…I am grateful. All through the day whatever touches my senses, I am grateful.

    Living this way makes you the richest person in the world. No matter where you are or what you do, there is always something to be grateful for.

    -Donna

  • Thank you @disqus_WOf1itR5dq:disqus for a beautiful and heart touching comment! I’m so honored that you found my post inspiring 🙂

  • Dear @donna_tribe:disqus thank you so much for your feedback about the post! 🙂 I love the way you are bringing gratitude in mindfulness into your daily life, totally agree that if we live this way we can be happier and more fulfilled in life! <3

  • disqus_OlEWrJaeRz

    Historically, arranged marriages have worked very effectively, the present tradition has become more like dating but (LOL) your parents choose your date. Family background, education, similar economic standards are the norm (SKIN COLOUR, Of course :P), so more or less, you end up with a suitable partner. In rural areas old mentality still pervades. (Unfortunately, there still exists rampant sexism, that’s epidemic in India).

    Then, love is something that develops, and very strongly at that, the divorce rates in arranged marriages have been very low. It’s like a life-long commitment. For the good or for the bad. Things are rapidly changing, we see that every other marriage is a love marriage among the educated. And divorce rates are also on the rise.

    I have no idea why you think any couple that are married in arranged marriage are ‘UNLUCKY’, that you have to be so grateful and feel lucky that ended up being not like that. That’s bizarre especially given that you have lived in India. Well, you know, anything you say about India, the exact OPPOSITE is true! And the extremes are common. A highly complex society and baffling for an outsider. The only thing common in India is that nothing is common! Not language, nor food, nor religion, nothing. And that’s what can either break India or make India in future.

    Recent marriages in my family have been all love marriages, some arranged as well. Both are seen as, well, marriages! What is Lucky or Unlucky about it? (Massive cultural differences for you I guess).By the way, I would prefer love marriage when I decide to settle down, but arrange marriage worked for millions of the people in India. 99.98 % percentage of youth have their parents married in arrange marriage, so please have some compassion and sensitivity, when you THANK that you were not born here. Of course, not everyone is happy in their married life, but that’s the case everywhere.

    And I won’t feel ‘Unlucky’ or ‘Cry’ if my parents ask to tell me whether I liked the girl that had chosen for me.

    – From an India in the Netherlands.

  • Shifting perception is huge. Most don’t realize that in order to grow and get what we want we have to be happy doing what it is that we’re doing because it’s the only way we can be inspired. 😉 #keepgrowing #keepcreating

  • Liz

    Well have you thought that maybe if they thought twice about having kids, then they wouldn’t work so hard? I just dont get how one poor person can have kids knowing they’re poor. Its not like they forced them. Its not like it was required. I get that its lack of education but is it really that hard to have self-control?

  • Junnaquacks

    Such a wonderful and enlightening post. Danijela, you sure are brilliant. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your deep insights to the readers of TinyBuddha and I am sure this post will continue to touch the hearts of many. Many of us, who have unlimited access to the Internet, who have ways to buy food if wanted – we actually fail to see how blessed we are to have these opportunities.

    Once again, I thank you for the post and I wish you more fruitful days ahead.

    Best regards,
    Junna