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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Kohlhaas MA LPC

Amp up your Gratitude

You are thankful. You recognize the benefit that gratitude gives you. Now your ready to go to the next level and develop a grateful way of life. You don't need to overhaul your attitude. A few simple steps, including learning how to steer clear of negativity, will help you amp up your gratitude attitude.

Don’t Get Caught In the Negativity Bias

The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry is another "enemy of gratitude," according to Cornell psychologist Thomas Gilovich. This is our tendency to see the obstacles more clearly than the solutions—a concept known elsewhere in psychology as “negativity bias.”

Telling a story about overcoming headwinds, which fosters gratitude, will increase your experience, according to Gilovich. By making it part of your unique personal story, you can turn tragedy into triumph. People who are able to see the good that has come out of a potentially negative situation are able to tap into a fresh source of gratitude.

What You're Thankful for Matters

In an attempt to understand why materialism undermines the pursuit of happiness, scientists Marsha Richins and Scott Dawson discovered that materialistic people report particularly low levels of gratitude. A related study by Todd Kashdan and William Breen, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, found that materialistic people experience more negative emotion such as fear and sadness, and less positive emotion.

How can you use this knowledge to give your gratitude practices a boost? Think about the experiences you enjoy. Focus on your adventures, relaxing moments, and connections. By associating your gratitude with experiences and relationships over material things, you ensure your gratitude attitude will continue even when you don’t get that new car, chocolate dessert, or a new pair of shoes.

Align Your Intentions with Your Gratitude

Take a week (maybe this week!) and be a student of your gratitude. Develop a hyper-awareness of when you are thankful, how you express your thanks, and how your physical body feels when you're experiencing and expressing this emotion. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Don’t overdose—use gratitude like a spice, not a meal

  2. Don’t let gratitude prevent you from seeing your role or value. Sometimes we belittle our own involvement in successful ventures by applauding others around us.

  3. Don’t let gratitude mask insecurity in romantic relationships. Using thanks as a way to endear yourself to a partner when you aren’t confident about the relationship is avoiding, not embracing reality.

  4. Don’t let power dynamics get in the way. At work, too much gratitude to a “superior” could be a bad if it's seen as a tactic rather than genuine act.

  5. Don’t apply it to the wrong person. If someone is abusive to you, don't act grateful in return.

  6. Do receive gratitude from others gracefully. Practice enjoying the experience of being thanked without downplaying your role.

Be Specific

Phrasing your gratitude in an “I” statement that includes what you are thankful for, why you're thankful for it, and how it makes you feel is the perfect equation for amping up your gratitude attitude.

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