How Grateful Are You? Interactive Quiz + Seven Strategies for Cultivating Gratitude

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Gratitude increases our happiness, improves our relationships, and makes us healthier.

And it does so reliably. Over 40 research studies have shown the same thing – gratitude rocks.

So how can we get more of it? It depends. How grateful are you already?

Let’s figure that out. The quiz below only takes 30 seconds.

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How grateful are you?

1. I have so much in life to be thankful for.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

2. If I had to list everything that I felt grateful for, it would be a very long list.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

3. When I look at the world, I don’t see much to be grateful for.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

4. I am grateful to a wide variety of people.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

5. As I get older I find myself more able to appreciate the people, events, and situations that have been part of my life history.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

6. Long amounts of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone.

Strongly Disagree Disagree Slightly Disagree Neutral Slightly Agree Agree Strongly Agree

You are more grateful than 5% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude, but at your level, both actions will lead towards large change.
You are more grateful than 15% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude, but at your level, both actions will lead towards large change.
You are more grateful than 25% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude, but at your level, both actions will lead towards large change.
You are more grateful than 35% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 45% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 55% of the adult, American population. Triggering more frequent feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more intense feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 65% of the adult, American population. Triggering more intense feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more frequent feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 75% of the adult, American population. Triggering more intense feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more frequent feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 85% of the adult, American population. Triggering more intense feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more frequent feelings of gratitude.
You are more grateful than 95% of the adult, American population. Triggering more intense feelings of gratitude will help you more than trying to trigger more frequent feelings of gratitude.

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Trigger more intense feelings of gratitude or more frequent feelings. Huh? Gratitude is gratitude. Right?

No. Gratitude is an emotion, mood, and personality trait. In describing highly grateful people, Robert Emmons, the positive psychologist that wrote How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, says:

The amount of gratitude in their daily moods is determined so thoroughly by personality processes that their moods are resistant to the effects of gratitude-relevant daily life events and their discrete emotional responses to these daily events. (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Gratitude in Intermediate Affective Terrain)

In English, they’ve adapted to higher levels of gratitude. Small feelings don’t make a difference – it takes concentrated bursts of emotion. For them, focusing on intensity is two to four times more effective than focusing on frequency.

But I don’t have that problem. Two months ago, I scored lower than 65% of American adults. Yesterday, I scored higher than 65% of American adults. Two months of practice was all it took to double my levels of gratitude. The one good thing at being at the low end of the spectrum is rapid progress, so don’t worry if you scored as low as or lower than me. I re-read this list of benefits when I need some motivation.

The takeaway: if you scored low, focus on quantity. If you scored high, focus on intensity.

The seven gratitude exercises

All seven exercises work, but you’re more likely to make it a habit if you pick what appeals most to you.

If you already keep a gratitude journal, consider adding another strategy into the mix. Most take just a few extra minutes a week but offer disproportionately large benefits.

1. Gratitude Journal

At the end of each day, write down a few items for which you are grateful. Moleskin journal or word document – it doesn’t matter.

Time Commitment: Two to five minutes.

  • The items you list must change and you must keep the activity interesting. Reduce your frequency or the number of items you list each time if you have to – a boring gratitude journal is a completely ineffective one.
  • The list does not have to be written. You can also say it out loud (that’s what I do).

Resources:

2. Positive Grace

How often do you say grace? Until recently, I never did – I’m not religious. But you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the miracle of life – the probability of our planet existing is basically zero. The probability of you being born on it is an even smaller zero (this is an awesome infographic).

Time Commitment: One to thirty minutes.

  • Say grace for everything. It doesn’t have to just be food.
  • Say grace to God, or say grace to Lady Luck. Grace is grace.

Resources:

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

3. Negative Grace

Remember when Mom and Dad told you to finish your food because kids are starving in Africa (or India)? It pissed me off. The first time I responded back by saying,

Well then, why don’t you ship this food over there? Oh wait, it’ll spoil and it’s cheaper to just buy them the food. Okay then, why don’t you donate some money? Huh? Oh wait, I know – you want me to get fat like you so I can run up medical bills and contribute to this country’s trillion dollar deficit. Thanks Mom.

Okay, I didn’t really say that when I was six (I was actually a very nice kid). As a coercion strategy downward social comparison may not work, but used as a tool for cultivating gratitude, it can.

On a regular basis, imagine some part of your life being worse than it actually is.

Time Commitment: One to thirty minutes.

  • Before I shower I say grace for not having to bathe in an ice-cold tundra. Before I sleep I sometimes say grace for not having to sleep on the floor.
  • Last month I read a story of a father taking the time each morning to imagine that his son had been killed. Gruesome? Yes. But can you imagine the smile on his face each time he saw that it wasn’t true?

Resources:

  • Spent, the most heart-wrenching online game I have ever played. It’s about trying to live a month in the shoes of a poor person. It’s quick and free.
  • 60 things that could be worse, from Tiny Buddha.
  • Some fun pictures of the “evil” Afghans. This is a mild, work-safe collection.

4. Prayer

Whatever your religion, there exist prayers of gratitude. And if your religion is anything like those I observe around me, gratitude is a virtue. Who would have thought? Virtue = happiness.

Time Commitment: One to thirty minutes.

  • Prayer is an especially powerful technique for cultivating gratitude because, as a ritualized system, it offers the exact words to say, specific items to be grateful for, and a person or entity to be grateful towards.
  • If ever you needed an additional reason to pray, now you have one. Gratitude makes people happy.

Resources:

  • A nondenominational list of gratitude prayers.
  • A video of Jewish gratitude prayers.
  • A beautiful prayer for all faiths, by Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the most revered Buddhists in the world:

    Waking up this morning, I see the blue sky.
    I join my hands in thanks
    for the many wonders of life;
    for having twenty-four brand-new hours before me.

5. Remember The Bad

Instead of visualizing something bad that could happen to your life, as with negative grace, visualize something bad that actually has happened, but that you overcame. Remembering the pain and difficulty with which we arrived at the present helps us to feel grateful.

Our life didn’t just happen – we fought, sweat, and maybe bled for it.

Time Commitment: Five to twenty minutes.

  • Don’t focus on unresolved bad – on choices not made or regrets left festering, but instead on challenges conquered and positives that could have been negative.
  • What better way to appreciate our current spouse, job, or living situation than to remember some of the terrible relationships, jobs, and cockroaches we’ve had to deal with and overcome in the past?

Resources:

  • A blog post on additional reasons why this exercise can be powerful, from Alive With Passion.
  • Me remembering the bad, from MANY MANY years ago:

I’m a responsible adult now, I promise.

6. Gratitude Visualization

Picture in your mind someone for whom you are grateful. Now verbalize out loud or in your mind a few specific reasons for why you are grateful for them. The more specific the better. After a few minutes, switch to someone else.

Time Commitment: Five to thirty minutes.

  • I set aside 20 minutes each Sunday to work through this practice, but like with all of the exercises, you can do it more frequently if you want faster and more powerful change.
  • You don’t have to switch to another person. You can also focus this practice on just one person, and use it as a way to deeply increase your appreciation of your spouse or other important person. Ingratitude kills marriages. Perhaps gratitude can save one.

Resources:

  • An overview of loving-kindness (compassion) meditation. Compassion and gratitude are not the same thing, but increasing one has been shown to also increase the other.
  • A comprehensive PDF of loving kindness meditation.
  • A gratitude meditation by Deepak Chopra.

7. Sensory Appreciation

We are consciously aware of less than .01% of the sensory cells being activated each second. Usually this is a good thing – if we were suddenly aware of all of the different things touching our body, smells reaching our nose, tastes lingering on our tongue, sounds hitting our eardrums and light-rays entering our eyes all at once, we would go crazy and be unable to focus.

But sometimes it’s good to turn off the filter.

Time Commitment: One to thirty minutes.

  • The next time you are eating delicious food, take a moment to close your eyes, focus on the pleasant sensations being generated in your mouth, and be grateful for 1) your tongue, 2) the food, or both. Doing this not only makes me grateful and happy – it makes my food taste much better!
  • The next time you are listening to a favorite song, close your eyes, focus on the beautiful combination of sounds, and be grateful for 1) your ears, 2) the music, or both. Remember the sense of joy you experienced the first few times you listened to favorite song? This can help you reclaim that joy.

Resources:

Get to it

These exercises are life hacks – they improve your life much more than their time commitment would suggest. More is better, but to start just pick one exercise with which to build a habit.

Let me know which one you picked with a comment below!

Remember, if you scored low, focus on frequency. If you scored high, focus on intensity. If you scored low, write a longer list or say grace more often. If you scored high, when you do feel gratitude, take the time to focus on, hold, and intensify the emotion. It will make a difference.

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