The Art of Gratitude

Greatness is all around you 

By Nora Mitchell


When I first begin writing on the subject of gratitude, I’m not too motivated to be doing so. I’m on my way home from my wonderful boyfriend’s in wonderful Brooklyn, but I’m feeling depressed, irritable and spacey due to some long-term health issues currently weighing me down.

What does gratitude mean to me? What am I grateful for?

I toy with my pen, looking to the vandalized subway ads and tired faces of commuters around me for answers. Family, friends, my youth, the roof over my head…. Of course I’m grateful for these things, but as lists go, this one is pretty uninspired.

I don’t want to sound like your mother at the dinner table, telling you to finish the food on your plate that starving children across the world would be lucky to eat. This is not because your mother is wrong, but because statements like these can provoke defensiveness rather than thoughtfulness.

No one wants to be called ungrateful-- it’s one of the most off-putting traits a person can have. It can also be hard to listen to celebrities, influencers and bloggers preach the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude when they appear to lead perfect lives. Of course the exceptionally beautiful, wealthy, famous and talented have the world to be grateful for. Maybe you don’t wake up in your dream apartment every morning and head off to your dream job. Maybe you’re having a hard time with money, a relationship or your health.

You may not always feel grateful.  I think that’s okay. No one feels grateful all the time, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that. When something you were excited about goes well in your life however, embrace the gratitude you feel for that.

Reflecting on the big things in life is great of course, but learning to root your gratitude in all the good that surrounds you every day is what will really benefit your mental health.

This doesn’t have to feel forced, although it may at first. Let yourself feel gracious for a hot cup of coffee in the morning, a baby smiling at you on the bus, a small success at school or work, a new song you discovered, or a quiet moment at the end of the day. Feel gracious for your arms and legs, for your literacy and for your potential. When I’m down in terms of mood or energy, I don’t always think to utilize my power to remember the good around me. Taking note of inspirational or somehow beautiful experiences can be helpful during times when it’s difficult to appreciate the present.

I tend to write things down, but if you’re not a writer, maybe taking a photo or sketching something that reminds you of what you were moved by will bring feelings of gratitude forward. Pushing your appreciation for life out into the world opens your mind to wellness; thank your mentors, your parents, your god, or the universe for your good fortunes that tend to take a back seat in your mind. Thank your own body and mind too, for propelling you to where you are now.

Photographed by Alyssa Ford