3 New Ways to Practice Gratitude

by Shana Montesol Johnson

Hello from Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC in the USA! As some of you may know, I relocated here a few months ago with my family, after spending 13 wonderful years in Asia. It’s been a big move for myself, my husband and two daughters, and my coaching and leadership development business! While “the transition” is still underway – and I will soon share some of my reflections and lessons learned on transition – there is much to be grateful for, particularly at this time of year. It is Thanksgiving here in the USA, and what better time to think about thankfulness? See my tips below on 3 New Ways to Practice Gratitude.

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3 New Ways to Practice Gratitude


Gratitude has long been a topic of fascination for me. I’ve geeked out on the benefits of gratitude – better sleep, lower blood pressure, less depression, more joy, and even better attainment of goals. I’ve asked my kids so often at the dinner table, “What are you grateful for?” that now they ask me what the best part of my day was. (Parenting win!) I’ve also been known to invite my coaching clients to keep gratitude lists or gratitude journals.

Yet it’s also easy to stagnate in a gratitude practice. We start to recite by rote what we are thankful for: family, friends, health, job, a roof over our heads. The same answer every time. We take these for granted, which is pretty much the opposite of gratitude.

Since it can be helpful to mix it up, here are 3 new ways to practice gratitude:

  1. Silver Linings Challenge. Think of something you have been complaining about, or something that is making you unhappy. What can you appreciate about it? What is good about this situation?When I lived in the Philippines, I often found myself spending hours in the car, stuck in Manila’s legendary traffic. The silver lining? It gave me ample opportunity to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Thanks to the epic traffic, I was exposed to numerous books, interviews, and articles that I otherwise would not have taken the time to listen to or read – and I learned a ton.This practice is not about minimizing or denying difficulty, but making room for appreciation. And the more we tap into gratitude, the more our perspective begins to shift, and that annoying person/situation has less power over us.
  2. Advance Appreciation. We usually express gratitude for what others have done for us, or for good things that have come into our lives. How about giving thanks for things that haven’t happened yet? Surely this will shift our mindset into gratitude.For example, earlier this year, there was a lot of uncertainty (and accompanying stress and anxiety) around my family’s move to the US. Where would we live? Would we find a house that we liked and could afford in a good location? What schools would our kids attend? I started giving thanks for our future house, neighborhood, and schools – before we knew the answers to any of those questions. (This practice didn’t erase my stress and anxiety altogether, but it did help me focus on the positive.) And now, months later, they have all appeared.
  3. Take Note of the Trivial. When we are asked what we are thankful for, we tend to think of the big things – family, friends, job, health, freedom – but what about the little things? Making a practice of noting 5 or 10 seemingly trivial things that we are thankful for can help shift our radar towards more things to appreciate in our daily lives. Here are some of mine:

the smell of coffee brewing

the stranger who held the door open for me as I entered the store

sleeping in on a Saturday morning

a pen that writes smoothly

Post It notes in a rainbow of colors (ok, you can tell I’m into office supplies!)

finding one last mini Twix bar in the leftover Halloween candy

my favorite pair of shoes

my daughter offering to set the table without being asked

a beautiful sunset

technology that enables me to stay connected with family, friends, and clients (this one is actually not trivial!)

And here’s a bonus super-easy Gratitude Practice:

Password Prompt. Set your password (for your email, computer or phone, bank account, etc.) to a word or phrase that will remind you to take a moment to be grateful. It’s a stealthy way to get more thankfulness into your daily life.

I invite you to try just one of these practices, and see what comes up. Let me know if you do! Feel free to drop me an email at shana (at) developmentcrossroads (dot) com.

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