5 Proven Steps to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

By Waceke Wambaa

People Walking Up And Down Steps Of Great Wall Of China Badaling Section
Scenery Of Lots Of People Walking Up And Down Steps Of Great Wall Of China Badaling Section During The Winter Season In Beijing China.East Asia

In one of the episodes of my Podcast, Victory in Mind, I talk about the powerful weapon called gratitude. I relate how I was once almost homeless and at a place of despair and how the use of gratitude helped me obtain strength to live into the next moment and the next until an attainable solution was realized. 

Why bother practicing gratitude?

Practicing gratitude is indeed a key life strategy that I use on daily basis to help put people, places, events, things, my life into perspective. It helps frame my outlook on life and how I interact with people on a daily basis. Intentionally practicing gratitude doesn’t mean that this becomes a mechanical action, but rather, I find myself more grateful for things I might have once overlooked. I become more aware of the value they hold. Developing and maintaining an attitude of gratitude is a vital nutrient towards living with victory in mind.

Silhouette of boys playing in a field against a warm sunrise sky
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India – April 13, 2008: Silhouette of boys playing in a field against a warm sunrise sky in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Perhaps this is a tool that you already incorporate into your daily routine or maybe not. Or this might present an opportunity to review your gratitude habits and perhaps strengthen them even further. I’ll share my simple yet effective strategies on how you too can harness this powerful life strategy.

Developing this muscle of gratitude, is not a one and done kinda thing.

Think of it. When you work out, you don’t go in for one workout looking like pre-Popeye spinach and come out after a gym session looking like Mr. and or Mrs. Universe (Oh, if only it were that easy!).

Practical analogies have a way of putting things into perspective…

Consider how our muscles need to undergo the arduous but rewarding process of tear and repair with just the right amount of stress to the muscle, not overworking it, to be able to eventually obtain the results you want. Those results are obtained with optimal conditions including rest, correct nutrition and time to say the least. Note too that those muscles are only going to be as strong and as useful as the type and quantity of the work out you give them. Muscles atrophy, waste away when we don’t use them so we need to be intentional if we want them to maintain form let alone function. Optimizing muscle training means having both form and function, to be able to have that stored energy readily available as the situation arises.

men streching on dirt pitch prior to football game.
Khartoum, Sudan – April 29, 2010: Villagers warming up for a football match at sunset in Karima, Sudan.

In a similar fashion, this is how, over time an attitude of gratitude is cultivated and operates to be able to positively impact and help sustain us through life’s peaks and valleys.

There is a solid argument in favor of intentionality of the practice of gratitude

A local happy boy playing soccer balancing the ball in the air and kicking at a dry riverbed.

Just like with our muscles, it’s that intentionality of thought, practice and repeated practice on a daily basis that helps cultivate that visible and invisible stored gratitude energy, to be available to readily pull on when the need arises.

Professional athletes make it look so easy because of the singularity of focus in their task, directly feeding the discipline it takes in creating that muscle memory and continually maintaining peak physical performance required to excel at their disciple. But for that athlete to operate at such a high level, they consciously make that decision to regularly train, even when it’s not an ideal time, because of the high value in the outcome training produces at game time.

As such, I too chose to excel at the discipline of gratitude. I may not always strike gold with the challenges faced in our lives. But I want to have my attitude of gratitude muscles trained to be on the ready through good times and the bad. This same attitude of gratitude has helped and helps lift me out of hard spaces and places, just like when I had no ready solution to the pending homeless crisis I was facing. Gratitude helped pull me through.

Three young Vezo boys playing on the beach with a football made out of recycled materials,
Anakao, Madagascar – 20th July, 2010: Three young Vezo boys playing on the beach with a football made out of recycled materials, e.g. plastic bags, wrapped in fishing nets. Anakao is a Vezo village on the south-west coast of Madgascar. The Vezo people live from the sea.

5 Proven Steps to Develop a Gratitude Workout Routine.

What to do…

1. Set aside specific time to be grateful.
2. Schedule it out.
3. Make a list.
4. Be intentional. Speak out aloud what your grateful for.
5. Building up an attitude of gratitude
  1. Set aside specific time to be grateful. I will still be grateful throughout the day but I specifically set time aside in the evening. Be intentional. Just like a work out, you’ve got to make the space to be grateful. You might find 5min on paper looks simple but time will crawl slowly when you first start at it. Keep at it, soon, you will find that you are going beyond that time.
  2. Schedule it out. Minimum for me is 7 days a week, every week of every month of every year. There are 24 hours in a day, 14440 minutes in a day. Surely 5 of those minutes are available to reflect on the good.
  3. Make a list. List 10 things grateful for. What?! I remember when I first started with this, it was so funny because I was like, huh? I mean, every day? Too many… well actually, over time, you may find that this is a short and achievable list. Let me share some items that can go on your list. By all means, add and delete to get to what is most relevant for you at this moment in time.
  4. Be intentional and speak out aloud what your grateful for. You yourself need to hear your own audio on this. Speaking to yourself internally or writing down what you are grateful for without actually releasing your gratitude into the atmosphere is doing you a great disservice. We encourage ourselves and others when we hear ourselves speak out loud… Think of all the athletes you see competing at high intensity levels – often they will self motivate out loud, or part of the team members will. Ya gotta let it out. Don’t short change yourself.
  5. Building up an attitude of gratitude – Over time, challenge yourself to search out gratitude moments in some of the tough memories and situations you have been in. You might find that by doing this, the memories over time may become less harsh. This has helped me be able to circle back to life situations that I may have originally avoided, building up an attitude of gratitude in being able to survive some tough situations.
maasai warriors playing football in savannah
Arusha, Tanzania, 7th September 2019: maasai warriors playing football in savannah

But how do I spend 5min or more meditating on gratitude?

  • Allow yourself time to ponder, analyze associated activities of what you are grateful for. You will find that your gratitude list will grow. For example, how thankful I am for having internet, that it functions and is not spotty or dodgy in coverage. With this in mind, I am so gratitude to have usable technology, versus 20-30 years ago, where snail mail was considered one of the main options to communicate with loved ones. Now, face-time, zoom and all other current technologies allow us to communicate face to face as if it were, with loved ones close by and those in other continents. I’m so grateful for this.
  • Thinking about the natural coupling of associated events within the course of one’s day, week or months. Allowing reflection on how pieces of the puzzle of life coming together. Natural curiosity is aroused to see where those pieces might lead, gratitude in this. For example, the idea of a Podcast, thankful to have the resources to research with, thankful that I can do research at the click of a button, where imagination is the limit to your research base, thankful for the opportunities to start a new venture are not as cost prohibitive as they once were. So grateful for family and friends who have supported me on this journey.
  • If not already done, expanding the attitude and posture of being thankful to and for immediate family members. Even when they work my last nerve, I know I am grateful for something about them… even if I have to think really hard about it!! When you see those whom you love, those around you succeed, you are naturally grateful. Love giving thanks here.
  • Things happening in your community, surrounding network that are a gratitude point. A neighbor’s car getting fixed, security in your city, region. All these things are so important to pay attention to and not take for granted.
  • How about your city, your nation, the world. Once you expand the concentric circles of your influence, you will find that there is so much to be grateful for.

My challenge to you is this. Be intentional in your gratitude on a daily basis. You can do it. Practice an attitude for gratitude. It will be so important when you least expect it but when you desperately need it.

Once you get into the habit of being regularly thankful with a heart postured into gratitude, it will strengthen your mindset to be better equipped, no matter what the battle you face may be. Yes, problems abound around us. I do not loose sight of this fact. But I know if we focus on the good, if we make the good big and the bad small so to speak, we will find that we are living and walking with victory in mind.

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