Mind your mind: Practicing gratitude is about noticing the small things

“What are you grateful for?”

I like to ask this question and guess the answer. So let’s see, are you thinking about your friends, your family or being privileged enough to live in a war-free country?

Those are the kind of things I thought about when I initially started practicing gratitude. Then I realized that those examples were so commonly cited at too many Thanksgiving dinners, that they eventually lost their meaning. So without even realizing it, I started to notice the small things.

And when I say small, I mean it.

Now when someone asks me what I’m grateful for, I say that I’m grateful for cherry flavoured lip balms, drinking cold lemonade on a hot day and fuzzy socks. I say I’m grateful for hair elastics because the best way to make friends in this world — especially if you’re a girl — is to always carry an extra hair elastic around your wrist. I say I’m grateful for thick, lined sheets of paper because although they’re expensive, they are so worth it. They make solving math problems less frustrating because when you start to erase, they never rip apart.

Of course, I'm incredibly grateful for my friends, my family and the privilege of living in a war-free country. I'm lucky and happy to have all of those things and more. But to me, practicing gratitude is about paying attention to the small things I often take for granted. After all, it’s the little things that matter and the little moments that make life worth living in the end.

Cultivating gratitude is a vital component of every major religion on earth and seems to be accepted as a universal human value. And let’s make one thing clear — practicing gratitude is not about comparison or ruminating over people who have it worse than you. It doesn’t involve invalidating the negative parts of your life. It simply means accepting the circumstances and then actively trying to notice the positive in every situation, even the shitty ones.

Focusing on what you don’t have or reminding yourself that you’re not sick or starving might not invite a warm sense of appreciation. Instead when practicing gratitude, you’re supposed to feel good. There’s a difference between knowing and feeling, so recognizing how fortunate you are is not the same as absorbing this information. Being grateful for a healthy mind and body is not the same as feeling relieved for not being terminally ill.

Practicing gratitude is about cherishing your life experiences, saying, “Thank you,” to the people close to you and celebrating yourself — your achievements, your qualities and even your failures. Focusing on things you appreciate in your life does not only lead to a shift in perspective, but also helps you embrace the present moment. Among many benefits, it has been proven to increase physical health and reduce emotional suffering. I can promise you that a daily expression of gratitude will lead you to achieve a greater state of overall happiness.