Focus On This Podcast

114. Four Actions to Boost Your Gratitude Year-Round



Gratitude is something you aspire to but struggle to actually practice. It’s a cycle. November approaches, and you remember to count your blessings. But then Thanksgiving passes, and you resume life as usual, your thoughts about being more thankful fading into the background. How do you keep gratitude more top of mind? 

In this episode, Courtney and Blake discuss four actions you can take to feel grateful all year round. Aspirations can turn into true change when you develop new habits of thought and behavior along the way. “Becoming more grateful” doesn’t have to remain a vague aspiration. You can make gratitude part of your life when you stop and say “thank you,” write it down, track your wins, and leverage your imagination.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • The subtle power of communicating the words, “thank you”
  • How to shift into the mindset of gratitude when you’re not feeling it
  • The importance of practicing simple acts of celebration 
  • How to leverage your imagination with “the George Bailey effect”


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Episode Transcript

Blake: Courtney, I’m so grateful to see you this morning.

Courtney: Are you? That is so kind.

Blake: Yeah. I just want to express my gratitude for getting this opportunity to podcast, to “cast some pods” once more. It is November, so gratitude… You know, ‘tis the season, although every season should be a gratitude season. Right? But sometimes gratitude, especially if you’ve had a hard time, is something you know you ought to do or to cultivate, but you struggle to actually practice it.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, today we have four actions that can help you feel grateful all year round and, honestly, help you even this month… We want to help you get to Thanksgiving and not feel like, “Oh, it’s now time to be grateful for some things,” that you’ve actually been cultivating that all month long.

Blake: Absolutely. It is fun to be grateful, and you’re more fun to be around. Let’s be honest. Be thankful for your cranberry sauce and much more on this episode of Focus on This.

Courtney: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I’m Courtney Baker, here with my good friend, who I’m very grateful for, Blake Stratton.

Blake: Aw, thank you. You know, who else I’m grateful for is Verbs and am struggling to feel grateful that he’s not here, but our clients, I’m sure, are very grateful because he’s off serving them in some profound and meaningful way. Let’s change the subject, because it’s about gratitude, not about missing Verbs.

Courtney: Actually, before we get into it, really fast… A couple of weeks ago, there was an episode where I wasn’t there, and Marissa was on the episode, and I was like, “Okay. I’m going to listen.” I was so excited to hear. Then y’all started the episode, and you said something to Marissa about losing her Southern accent. First of all, do I really have a Southern accent?

Blake: Uh, it’s November. It’s not April Fools. Right?

Courtney: Well, listen. Marissa and I both grew up here in middle Tennessee. How is it she doesn’t have an accent and I do? I really just wanted to know… How Southern is my Southern accent?

Blake: Boy, let’s see. Well, you’re not an Alabamian, I don’t think.

Courtney: Okay. So, like, I’m a 5.

Blake: But you’re close.

Courtney: Oh, wow! Okay. All right. Well, let’s move on into being grateful. I’m grateful for that revelation of the scale of my Southern accent. So, the first action is (this is pretty straightforward) say “Thank you.” I think a lot of times it’s easy to be critical. This kind of plays into our last episode last week about celebrating. It’s easy to look out where the breakdowns were, what needs to improve, but sometimes it’s not as natural for us to look for ways to say, “Thank you” and to acknowledge even the little moments of things that happen that you’re grateful for.

Blake: Yeah. You may feel or understand that something is a good thing, but literally communicating the words “Thank you” is powerful. It’s hard to say, “Thank you” and not have something even subtly shift so that you actually are in a more positive place. When you communicate that to somebody else… You don’t get the relational benefit of keeping the “Thank you” in your head. It’s only when we communicate it that we can build some more trust in our relationships. It takes two seconds to do, but it’s a high-leverage phrase to use all day, every day, with everyone you’re connecting with.

Courtney: I want to put a little caveat to that. I do think it’s to be in a grateful attitude, but I think there is a line where there are some people who just say, “Thank you” and you’re like, “Did you actually mean that?” You’re like, “Eh, you’re just…” When you feel like there are those people who genuinely feel gratitude or really see you, I think that’s really what it’s about. Those are the people you want to be around. You’re like, “Yes. More time with that person.” So, yeah, a simple “Thank you” is a really powerful tool.

Okay. The second action is to write it down. Write down what you’re grateful for. Some of the best moments of gratitude might not be aimed toward another person. They may just be like, “Actually, I’m really thankful for this beautiful crisp fall morning this morning” or “I’m really grateful I get to get on this crazy bicycle and exercise, that that’s something I get the privilege of doing.”

Blake: Something I have learned this year about this is I’ll be in a place where… The times we need gratitude the most are usually the times where we feel the least grateful because we’re annoyed at something or feeling stressed or anxious. That’s when having some gratitude is going to provide the most benefit, but how do you get there? I find it’s helpful to go there indirectly.

Rather than to go, “What am I thankful for in my day today?” when my day feels like it has totally sucked, I’ll pick a totally neutral topic. Like you said, a cup of coffee or a crisp autumn morning. I’ll literally just pick a topic. I’ve literally done this before, where I’ll just say, “What am I thankful for about this iPhone? Boy, it’s pretty amazing. I can do basically everything in my whole life on my phone. The camera is incredible. It means I can take better pictures. I can capture silly faces my daughter makes really easily. I’m never without a great camera.”

I just do that for a few minutes, and then, all of a sudden, it’s actually easier to then extend that gratitude energy, so to speak, into my crappy day or the day that used to feel like it was crappy. I can say, “Oh, you know what? I am grateful for this thing” or “Yeah, this was hard, but here’s how it’s benefiting me, so I’m grateful for that thing as well.” Does that make sense?

Courtney: It totally makes sense. I think what you’re getting at… You talked about this in our last episode about celebrating wins. You’re affecting your thinking, which is really all we have. A lot of times we think it’s all about our actions, like, what we did or what we didn’t do, but all of those actions come from our thinking, and that’s why empowering a practice of gratitude… It really is a foundation that impacts all of the actions we have. I can only imagine, if this is not something you’re doing, how it actually changes the way you interact with others. There’s a whole domino effect this can have.

Blake: So, a quick tip for this one is to physically write it down and to install that in some form or fashion into your day. We talk on this podcast a lot about the Full Focus Planner, obviously. There’s not a built-in gratitude section, but there is a Notes page, and maybe you make this part of your morning ritual or your evening ritual, where you’re just writing down a few things you’re feeling grateful for that day. Or maybe you check out our Full Focus Journal, which has prompts that can lead you into some gratitude each and every day.

Whenever I do handwrite that stuff, it takes longer, but it’s the length of time it takes that can help those things sink in. You can almost just savor it for a little bit, a little, “Ooh, yeah.” Just a little extra second there.

Courtney: I know there are a lot of people in the Full Focus Planner Community who add it at the end of their Notes page. It says, like, “Today’s gratitude,” and they just list out something they’re grateful for.

So, the third action is to track your wins. This correlates with what we talked about last week about celebration. Celebration is really important for cultivating gratitude. When we move from “Okay, this is the thing we have to accomplish” to the next thing without taking that moment to celebrate it… Celebration is that moment of gratitude for ourselves and for what we’ve done.

Blake: This is a small way that I’ve tried to do this. If you’re struggling to track your wins or to celebrate, a small habit you may want to build in… Actually, Courtney, you already do this. Courtney really loves to check boxes, and that’s a small form of savoring and celebrating and feeling grateful. You can go through your whole day and check boxes, like in your planner.

Something I started to do… I can’t remember where I got this idea, but it was supposed to help you wind down from your day and feel like, “Oh, I’m not on a constant treadmill.” In my workday shutdown, I have a little journal prompt that says, “What did you accomplish today?” or “What did you do today?” Even though I just wrote those things down in my planner and they’re checked off, I will journal and write, “Oh, I did this. I did this. I did this.” A lot of times, I did stuff that wasn’t even in my planner, but I just write all of those things down.

It does a couple of things. First, it helps me realize, “Oh, I actually did get stuff done today regardless of how I’m feeling in this moment.” The second thing it does is it gives me this chance to disconnect. It’s called the workday shutdown. How I want to end my workday is, first, to actually end it, to feel like I can safely unplug, and second, to have a sense of gratitude and a sense of “I’ve made some progress.” So, tracking that win in that way… It’s not like an actual tracker, but tracking it in that small way has been helpful for me to accomplish that.

Courtney: Okay. The fourth action you can take to feel more grateful… This is kind of fun, Blake. Leverage your imagination. Hang with me here for a second. Blake, you know that movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Right?

Blake: “Wait a minute. I don’t have your money. It’s at Bill’s house.” Nick hates that impression. “Mr. Potter, you scoundrel.” That’s terrible. I’m sorry, everybody.

Courtney: I thought it was really good. I liked it.

Blake: “Oh, Mary, you want the moon?”

Courtney: Okay. It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey obviously witnesses what the world would be like if he had never been born. Obviously, along the way he becomes a lot more grateful for his life. I know, guys. It’s a little early for Christmas movies, but just hang with me.

Blake: Not for me. I’m ready.

Courtney: We can kind of do something similar in our own lives. Just take a moment to think about, “Hey, what if this person or this situation wasn’t part of my life? How would my life look different? What would be missing?” Sometimes that easily exposes how grateful you are for that thing or person or circumstance in your life, and it becomes easier to write it down and to acknowledge it. So, this tip is really just to use your imagination to put you in the frame of mind to be grateful.

Blake: Thank you, Clarence…I mean, Courtney. Yeah, I think this is pretty cool. I know we talked about It’s a Wonderful Life. Another movie that does this for me is About Time. Have you ever seen About Time?

Courtney: Is it the one where…? No. I still think I’m thinking of The Time Traveler’s Wife, so now I’m not even sure.

Blake: Okay. Well, the point is About Time… It’s a great movie. It gives me feelings. I actually did this… I don’t know if I should divulge this. Basically, the whole premise is this guy can kind of move throughout the timeline of his life and correct mistakes or come back to experience a certain thing.

The moral at the end of the story (spoiler alert) is, basically, learning to not even use that superpower but just to treat each day as if it’s a day he chose to come back and relive for a second time and that being a trigger to have more gratitude and to have an expectation of “There are things I’m going to experience in this day that I will be grateful for.”

Anyway, I love that. It’s perhaps a little less dark way to use your imagination than imagining your whole life and the people you love disappearing. However, both are helpful, depending on which way you like to roll. Do you want to hear something really dorky?

Courtney: Yeah. What?

Blake: There’s a little theme in that movie, and I actually made it my alarm clock sound for a year, because I literally wanted to wake up to that sound, which kind of triggered, “Oh, yeah. It’s from that movie,” and then put me in that frame of mind, like, “Oh, yeah. I need to treat this day in that way.” So, that’s my little nerdy moment for you guys.

Courtney: I love that. Thank you for that. Okay. That idea of becoming more grateful is kind of a vague thing. Hopefully, this gives you some actionable things you can do to stop and say, “Thank you,” to write down some gratitude, to track your wins, and even to do a little imagination play to help you get in the right frame of mind. So, thanks for joining us today on this episode of Focus on This.

Blake: This is the most productive podcast on the Worldwide Web, on the whole Internet. Can you believe it? Me neither some days, but today, for sure. If you are enjoying it, tell your friends about it. Bring your fam onboard, and feel grateful for it. Join our friends in the Full Focus Planner Community, if you’re not already there. It’s on Facebook. Look it up. Join the party.

Courtney: And while you’re in that gratitude state of mind, feel free to leave a review. We love five-star reviews, and we’re grateful for them. We’ll be back here next week with another great episode. Until then, stay focused.