Small vs big gratitude

A friend asked me recently:

“How do I become more grateful in my life?”

By instinct, we know that gratitude is a good thing.

Yet, there’s a weird guilt around what we should be grateful for.

If you’re not grateful for your family, friends, God or the “big” things in life, then you’re selfish.

You’re not deep or truly humble.

This is a common-but-unspoken assumption.

When ideas percolate into mainstream culture, they are often accompanied by a certain aesthetic or expectation.

(Just think of the rise of yoga, meditation, psychedelics, and spirituality in the West.)

Gratitude as performance for others.

These expectations extend to the idea of gratitude, and are exacerbated by social media.

The same thing has happened to gratitude, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

The advantage of small gratitude

I believe that small gratitude works better than big gratitude.

Especially if someone wanted to get started on a daily gratitude practice.

Big gratitude – for the universe, the opportunities given to you in life – comes with a gravity, a seriousness that demands repetition.

This repetitiveness can get boring, and create a spirit of obligation that’s counterintuitively…unhelpful.

Small gratitude, on the other hand, is easy and portable.

Like being grateful for…

  • A cup of coffee.
  • The invention of pens so I can write in my journal.
  • The feeling of joy when Taco Tuesdays roll around.

How to practice “small” gratitude

Think of one small thing to be grateful for.

My favorite trick is to look in my immediate environment: an item that I’ve used or a recent experience that just occurred.

It might feel silly at first, e.g. I’m grateful for the existence of grapefruit. But there’s a power to this, just as there’s immense power in enjoying a momentary breeze.

Just as mindfulness only requires one conscious breath, gratitude only takes one moment of appreciation.

And it can be about anything.

Because gratitude is less about the exact thing you’re grateful for, than it is about the power of appreciation,

Which taps you into presence.

And that’s the key.

Gratitude is a tool to access the present moment.

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