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How to Cultivate Gratitude Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

I recently came across the idea: “Gratitude is the greatest gift you can experience.”

Often these phrases pass like a bee whizzing by my ear, as I am sure they do with others. Though containing little grains of truth, clichés – or statements sounding very much like them – garner less attention than odd-sounding, infrequent bombshell quotes. However, the one above landed squarely on my heart and I continued to ponder it throughout my yoga practice this morning.

I suppose this is what they call “setting an intention,” though I did not ask for it.

What came to mind is that the statement does not make “gratitude” into a directive specifically to the “you” in the sentence. In other words, the end point for our gratitude can be outside of ourselves. Let me give an example. Gratitude journals are very popular right now. Personally, when I think of things for which I am thankful, I usually write: my family, my developing career, my house, my health… my… my… MY. Of course I am grateful for these things! I should be. But when I consider gratitude as the “greatest gift I can experience,” I realize it does not mean the “greatest gift I can experience for myself.” Gratitude does not need to exist in isolation.

Gratitude, is in fact, the greatest gift we can give others.
It is the greatest gift we can experience by giving to others.

Giving gratitude to others comes back to our hearts and spirit as elation because we realize our connectedness – our oneness – with those around us.


Try this:

  1. Take a moment to close your eyes and breath in deeply. Breathe out in a slow, gentle manner. Repeat this several times. Feel your body sitting in a chair or your feet standing on the ground. Feel yourself rooted to the earth. Go back to normal breathing, softly.
  2. Once you feel your body calm, begin thinking of all the things in your life you are thankful for: your home, your health, and your family… that new car you drive that won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road. All of that is fine. Consider all the things that make your life healthy and secure. Send gratitude to those people and things.
    3. Now think of the people who support you in your life. Think of those who care for you and help you to be the best person you can be. Send gratitude to those people.
  3. Consider the people you do not know who create or provide things from which you benefit: those who make the clothes you wear, grow the food you eat, who built your home, who repair the road you drive upon, or those who work in service to create a safe environment for you to live in. Send gratitude to these people.
  4. Once you widen your circle of gratitude to those you do not know, take time to dwell in the feeling of gratitude for a bit without offering it to anyone. Simply recognize the feeling. Enjoy it. Rest in it.


Once you are finished with the meditation (this should only take 5-10 minutes), take it with you throughout your day. You now know what it feels like without it being attached to a specific thing. Find opportunities to extend this cultivated gratitude to those you encounter. There need not be an instigator for the gratitude.
Not only will this send joy and love to them, you will also receive the benefit by standing witness.

This is the “greatest gift you can experience.”


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