How to Cultivate Gratitude Throughout the Day

A guide to conquering overwhelm with one simple question.

Have you ever asked yourself why contentment doesn’t come easy to you or why you’re always striving for more?

Do you accept dissatisfaction as one of the inevitable features of modern life, a side effect of always wanting more? Do you routinely feel that the time it takes to do all the things exceeds the time you have available to do them and still ensure you have a life?

Even when the world around us is going at breakneck speed it doesn’t mean we should, too, at least not if we value our mental health. With interconnectedness and social media soliciting our attention 24/7, we often struggle to focus and stay that way.

Cue frustration, flaring tempers, and the inability to invoke patience, which would help us if we could still remember what it is. We want it yesterday, tomorrow hasn’t happened yet but we’re already there; no wonder our heads are spinning.

Know when to stop, breathe, and be; otherwise, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to cram everything in, exceed expectations, and come out on top.

Checking in with yourself at regular intervals is an essential yet underrated coping skill.

So many of us go through life without getting adequate rest — so much so that we do not take the time to ask ourselves how we’re feeling lest the answer should cause us to grind to a halt. Realizing how tired we are is sometimes enough to dispel whatever last shred of energy we were clinging to for dear life.

In that sense, it’s very much “the keeping going that keeps you going,” and taking a break to ponder our exhaustion levels would be quite unhelpful.

However, adding gratitude to challenges can turn them into opportunities to treasure what we have.

Asking yourself “What makes me happy right now?” will pull you out of any funk because it forces you to take stock of the present moment and look around.

It puts the ego on pause, coaxes you out of your head, and brings you back into the world, a human among fellow humans, other creatures, nature.

Nuggets of joy abound in the most quotidian things if only we know how to look, that is to say with the heart rather than with the eyes. If this sounds familiar it’s because it is one of the key messages of French classic The Little Prince, a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that applies to all stages of life.

‘Here is my secret, it’s a simple secret: it is only through your heart that you can see clearly. The eyes do not see that which is most important.’

No matter how stumped or stuck you might feel, gratitude is as simple as noticing all the goodness around you, even if it boils down to the self-evident.

The smile of a child, the purr of a cat, a ray of sunshine making you blink, the smell of the ocean, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Your home; your family; your hand in another human’s; knowing at least one person who will always give you a hug when you need one.

No matter how basic they might sound, there are countless ways to dissipate darkness and trigger a quick burst of happiness.

Remembering where we’ve come from can help us stay humble and on track toward completing what we’ve set out to achieve.

Acknowledging how much progress you’ve made is both concrete and measurable; keeping your eyes on an elusive prize is not. While inspiration merchants make a living out of hypnotizing us with mirages, you can counter that by owning the moment.

Stop, breathe, and be.

There is no guarantee you’ll get a tomorrow but today is yours so why not treat the present as the gift it is?

Ask yourself what makes you happy right now because there’s always something. Too often, we let entitlement and greed obscure the myriad ordinary miracles that hold our daily life together. We become complacent about people and circumstances without taking the time to appreciate them.

Take stock often, inhabit the moment, and stop putting happiness on layaway.

Find the good in your life and cherish it. Paying attention to something causes it to take up more space in your heart and mind so focus on what is.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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