How to show more gratitude in your life

Salvation Army bells chime, canned produce piles glisten and a stronger sense of community swells.

It’s a time of year when more of us tend to show how thankful we truly are for those in our lives and extend the compassion to our community and beyond.

IMG_8199But being grateful and showing appreciation can be part of each day, not a practice saved for the holiday season.

This week, two local experts share just how important it is for our health to maintain a level of gratitude.

With a few pointers, they show how easy it is to get started today. Or, if you already incorporate daily gratitude, they offer a fresh look at how to revamp your practice.

“You cannot be grateful and unhappy.” —Unknown

“There’s the underlying desire of all living things to be happy,” said Brian Granader, owner of Red Lotus Yoga in Rochester Hills. And “a key component to happiness is gratitude.”

When we express appreciation—and really mean it—for the things we have, the people in our lives and the experiences we create or endure, “we spend less time being desirous of the things we don’t have, or wishing for things to be different,” he said.

It’s no wonder the act of gratitude can be found in almost every spiritual or religious practice, says Tony Bittick, a yoga instructor with Yoga Planet Studio in Rochester. “I think one of the primary reasons why is it’s really a matter of mental focus.”

Being consciously grateful roots us in the present moment.

“Most of our challenges come from clinging onto something from the past or hoping for something in the future,” Bittick said. “Gratitude lists help us stay right here, right now.”

The way he conveys this lesson to his students is through a Mark Twain quote, which he paraphrases:

“In my life I might live through many tragedies—some of them even real.”

IMG_7904Whatever the source of anxiety, “those problems don’t exist any place other than in our mind,” Bittick says, “If we can replace those things with real things that we’re grateful for—then we eliminate the problem.”

So you can be happier and less stressed with a little extra ‘thank you’ during your day? Which can be especially important during the hectic nature of the holiday season. Here are a few tips on getting started:

Gratitude lists

One of the easiest ways to focus on all that you have going in your life is to compile a gratitude list. You can do this verbally, in your head or write it down—or type it up, if you prefer. Whether it’s three, five or 10 things you rattle off that make you happy, just try it, both experts agree.

Do it first thing in the morning

Granader suggests enacting a gratitude practice when you first wake up each morning.

“Before you take your head off the pillow, think of three things you’re grateful for in your life,” he says, “it might be that you have a pillow or a warm bed.”

Do it for someone else

“It’s hard to be upset if I’m focused on something else or somebody else,” Bittick said.

To relate the importance of gratitude to his students, he says ‘I don’t end up sad, or depressed or upset when I focus on myself. But if I am sad, depressed or down, guaranteed: the only thing I’m focusing on is myself.’”

So just like the benefits of exercising with a buddy, try practicing gratitude for someone else.

You can share your list with a friend or partner or even just ask, ‘hey did you do your list today?’” he says.

Try thanking your partner in the evening

Most people want to be happy in their relationships, says Granader and one way to do that is to thank your partner for little—or profound—things they have done during the day.

This is something the studio owner and his wife do each night before bed—“We think of three things the other person did for us, and, out loud thank them,” he said, like “’Thank you for working so hard’”.

Whether you are married, living together or separately, this is something you can try, even over the phone, he said.

“Watch your relationship change, because somebody on the other side of that goes ‘You saw that?’ You’re acknowledging me.’—“It’s the sweetest thing,” Granader said.

You can always pick it up again

If you stray from your daily gratitude practice, have no fear. Bittick reminds us that you can always start over. After all, this becomes a commitment to your well-being and the happiness of those around you.

Do you practice daily gratitude? Have a suggestion? Or just want to share what you are grateful for? Drop us a line at




About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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