Five ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude

Oct 10, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Gratitude keeps us centered while it wards off jealousy and negativity. Here are five little things you can do each day to nourish a sense of gratitude - a key in finding happiness!

Grateful Family

1. Choose your friends wisely

If you want to be more grateful, spend time with grateful people! Spend time with positive people to be more positive -- joyful people to be more joyful -- critical people to be more critical -- irritated people to feel more irritated.

If you strive to be spiritually strong, supportive, empowering, intelligent, energetic and positive, seek those same characteristics in others. Happiness is contagious.

Help your friends develop more positive traits by living those positive traits yourself. Know what kind of friends will help you nurture your soul, and set out to find some.

2. Help your friends cultivate gratitude

Before you say anything about a friend's situation, remember that everyone's situation is unique. I've seen it happen to myself and to my friends: They'll be perfectly happy until someone tells them they're being mistreated -- then suddenly they're upset.

Don't let your friends wield such power, and work to avoid wielding such power yourself. Day by day, hour by hour, make a goal to stop complaining about your life. Make a pact with your friends to cut the complaints from your conversations. Rather, focus on positives and cultivating gratitude and happiness.

3. Give the gift of gratitude to your children

One of the most lasting contributions we can make to our children is to help them understand that we don't deserve anything and everything just because we live and breathe.

Help your children to be satisfied with the simple things while giving them the innate power and ability to achieve whatever they want in living in such a way yourself. Show them that happiness comes from within and not from material objects.

4. Say "thank you"

Whom in your life do you appreciate? Let them know, whether it's your mom, your kids, your friends, your husband, your child's daycare provider or the helpful woman behind the cosmetics counter.

You don't have to spout some corny line. A heartfelt "thank you" often does the trick. Make it a habit, and your attention will ultimately turn to all the wonderful things people do for you.

Write thank you notes regularly -- not just after a gift exchange -- and be mindful of all the ways you show your appreciation by the things you do in return.

Another idea: Spend 15 minutes writing a letter to your children. In this note, tell them how much you love them, why you're thankful for them, and all the ways they have enriched your life. This can be something you give them now or after they have grown.

Regardless, two simple words - thank you - will boost your happiness as well as the happiness of those you touch.

5. Be mindful of the little things

Today, strive to be aware of all the aspects of your personal, professional and family life for which you are thankful.

Take a few minutes today to appreciate nature. Go for a walk and notice only those things that are beautiful. Whether you focus on the stars above, a distant mountain range, or the cottonwood tree in your backyard, try to notice the details. Give thanks for the beauty that surrounds us. Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance, speak often of the importance of a Gratitude Journal, in which, at the end of each day, they record five things that they're grateful for.

Whether you record these items or simply think about them, spend some time each day to focus on the little things in your life that make each day special. Perhaps it's your child's toothless grin. A warm home. Delicious food enjoyed with family.

Together, let's work on focusing on what we have -- not on what we don't have -- and all the ways we can help one another have more gratitude for the gift of life. Finding happiness is that easy.