The Gift of a Grateful Heart

Written by on November 20, 2017 in Self-Awareness, Sense of Purpose

The Gift of a Grateful Heart


A grateful heart shifts focus from ourselves to other people and circumstances as we humbly acknowledge their contribution to our lives. Feels good just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

But gratitude can be tricky at times depending on how you choose to define it because after all you were not born grateful, it is something you had to learn and then cultivate over time.

Some people are fortunate enough to be taught about the importance of gratitude from a young age, while others learn about the how and why of being thankful gradually over time through their life experiences.

The challenge is that there is a common tendency to interpret gratitude as an emotion that we express for the things we have, a warm loving family, friends, a good job, a nice house.

Sounds wonderful, but what if you have none of these things? Worse, what if you had and then somehow lost them? Is it even possible to still be grateful if you didn’t grow up in a loving home, just lost your job or are facing a health crisis?

Absolutely! In fact, a growing number of researchers now believe that gratitude should be added to the list of key elements that contribute to the development of emotional resilience.

Despite the way it makes us feel, gratitude is not an emotion, it is a learned discipline. You can give yourself this gift by choosing to become mindful of your day-to-day experiences and understanding how the littlest of things can create moments of sheer joy.

Ultimately, it is recognizing that life is neither good nor bad, it is in the truest sense what we choose to make it.

Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good, even in an unpleasant situation. Start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful. ~Marelisa Fabrega

The 365 Grateful Project

Even if you feel you have a good grasp on gratitude in your own life, I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch the following brief TEDx presentation by Haley Bartholomew. It has inspired and truly touched my heart.

Haley explains how a simple change in perspective lifted her from a sense of hopelessness, awakened her to the power of a grateful heart and turned into the amazing 365 Grateful Project.

As she shares her experiences with reflection and visually documenting day-to-day gratitude you may even discover a few blessings you’ve been overlooking in your own life.



Awesome Little Things to Be Grateful For

What I love about Haley’s message is how it not only serves to highlight the little things that are so easy to take for granted but reveals the role expectations play in our ability to feel and express gratitude.

I made a quick list of a few specific objects and moments I could think of that bring pleasure to our lives, see if any of these resonate with you or if you can add a few of your own in the comments section.

  • That first deep breath you’re able to take after you’ve had a lingering head cold.
  • When the electricity suddenly comes back on after an extended outage.
  • Scoring the last perfect nacho.
  • Your pillow.
  • The first time your new baby locks eyes with you and gives you a big toothless grin.
  • How your dog’s whole body wiggles and shakes with joy every time you walk in the door.
  • When you realize you have a whole row of seats on the plane to yourself.
  • Receiving a handwritten thank you note.
  • Catching the driver in the car next to you singing and sharing a laugh with them.
  • A long hug when you really need it.
  • When you discover there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Eating the first freshly baked cookie from the oven even though it’s still way too hot.
  • When the only light in the room comes from the Christmas tree.
  • Getting your ID checked when you’re way over the legal age.
  • Pockets.
  • When a human answers the phone.
  • Crossing the last item off your list.
  • Today
 If you woke up tomorrow to only the things you’ve expressed your gratitude for, then what would be missing from your life?
The Book of Awesome

The_Book_of_AwesomeFor even more ideas on the many often overlooked treasures in life, I highly recommend The Book of Awesome available at Amazon. I’ve lost count of how many of these I’ve given away as gifts during the holidays or to bring a smile to the face of friends going through a rough patch.

This book is described as a high five for humanity and a big celebration of life’s little moments and the underappreciated, simple things that make us happy, from popping bubble wrap to hitting a bunch of green lights in a row to waking up thinking it’s Monday and realizing it’s Saturday.

And, If you’d like to learn more about Haley’s project I encourage you to visit her website, 365 Grateful where you’ll find more inspiring stories and images, and tips on starting your own gratitude project.

Your turn: Do you have a gratitude ritual? Maybe you write in a journal or have a gratitude jar at home. What do you think about the idea of taking a photo a day of something you’re grateful for?

Related reading:
Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click here.

Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Wonderful additions Ruth! I especially value mornings. There are days when my precious little dog reminds me of our morning walk that all I really want to do is linger a little longer over my coffee but once we’re outside and in the brisk air and beautiful woods that surround our home it reminds me just how blessed we are to live here and sets the tone for the day ahead. Thanks for sharing with us! 🙂

  2. Good for you Kathryn! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and the opportunity to learn about Haley. 🙂

  3. Ruth Bowers

    I love your list Marquita! My additions would be: That first moment in the morning when everything is quiet and still and full of promise for the new day; The first time you dip your toes in the lake after after a long winter; The warmth of the sun on your skin after you’ve been working inside all day.
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…Embracing Change: Five Tips For Heading Down A New Path In LifeMy Profile

  4. Hi Marquita,
    I loved the post and the introduction to Hayley through her Ted Talk.
    Every day I wake up I give thanks for the day. I journal at the end of the day.
    Happiness is within me.
    Great post.

  5. So glad you enjoyed it Elise! 🙂

  6. Beautifully said Donna, I always appreciate your thoughtful insights. 🙂

  7. Thank you for your kind words Edward, and especially for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  8. Elise Cohen Ho

    This is a lovely post. A grateful heart is a happy heart, indeed.
    Elise Cohen Ho recently posted…Post-Thanksgiving & Holiday DecoratingMy Profile

  9. Donna Merrill

    Hi Marquita,

    Like you say, we are not born grateful.

    But every day can be a learning experience.

    Every day we can take stock of all those things we are or should be grateful for.

    Things we don’t even realize usually, unless we give this focused attention.

    And really, when you think of it… we all have write own unique Book of Awesome each new day that we wake up to.

    Thanks for the intro to Hailey’s work, BTW.

    How much fun is she?

    Feeling grateful for the connection 🙂

    Donna Merrill recently posted…3 Ways To Differentiate Yourself As A BloggerMy Profile

  10. Edward Thorpe

    You’re just so way cool!

    Love this conversation your post has provoked. But, this sums the whole up for me:

    “If you woke up tomorrow to only the things you’ve expressed your gratitude for, then what would be missing from your life?”

    What a sobering concept. Thanks for the image.
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…Advice You Would Give to Your Younger SelfMy Profile

  11. Beautifully said Tuhin! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. 🙂

  12. I understand your point Erika, but since gratitude is not a part of our DNA it must be learned and therefore if there is anything to be sad about it’s that far too many people go through their entire childhood never learning the benefits of gratitude. As we know, and I referenced in the article, even if you’ve never been taught the value of gratitude it’s pretty easy to grasp the concept when everything is going well in your life. Where we need to work at it is when life is at a low point, and sometimes we just need a helping hand to guide us. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful insights, always appreciated!

  13. Tuhin

    Gratitude is a discipline and it takes effort to make it a part of our character. I try to appreciate all the little things that I get everyday even without asking.
    Sometimes life takes away the things we do not appreciate and have taken for granted.
    No matter how tough situations may arise there will always be something to be grateful for!
    Tuhin recently posted…5 Tips to Support Teens in StressMy Profile

  14. Beautiful article, Marquita
    It made me a bit sad to see that one needs a coach to feel gratitude.Maybe this is because we are so far away from nature or living in big cities. Especially the little things if we are aware of them can make overwhelm with gratitude. Think of a bee how much it is working so we can eat honey, for example, every piece of bread until it is coming to us or a flower a fruit everything is like a miracle. Everything is given to us if we are conscious of this, how can we not be grateful?
    Thank you
    Erika Mohssen-Beyk recently posted…How To Be Successful By Taking Responsibility For Your LifeMy Profile

  15. Good for you Joy! I am a huge fan of journaling for personal growth and healing and it sounds like it’s working very well for you. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and video. 🙂

  16. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and especially for letting me know you enjoyed the post. Always appreciated! 🙂

  17. Joy Healey

    Hi Marty,

    Great post and TED Talk.

    I too had been feeling very grumpy and fed up, despite actually being one of the luckiest people on the earth in what I have in so many ways.

    So about a week ago I started writing in a book what had gone well at the end of every day. (Ignoring the bad!)

    Even just a week on I feel so much better about “things” and am staring to notice the good in my life again.

    You’re right, if people who ostensibly do NOT have much to be grateful for, can be grateful, how much easier should it be for so many of us.

    Enjoyed this post and TEd talk. Thanks.

    Joy Healey – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Discount Travel From GSR – Now I Get Paid To SleepMy Profile

  18. Hi Marquita,
    I am inspired by your post.
    I have come to realize that at every point in life, whether in the good or bad time, there are reasons to be grateful if we look carefully. We should learn never to take things for granted. The only time some of us learn to value things in our lives is when we lose them, and it ought not be so.
    Your post has challenged and reminded me to cultivate the discipline of gratitude. Thanks for sharing.

  19. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Doreen. 🙂 Your story about your adopted cat reminded me of a rescue we had when I was a kid. Some terrible person threw a paper bag on our lawn and I went out to pick it up and there was something wiggling in it. It turned out to be 2 newborn kittens and sadly one was already dead. We called the humane society in our town to ask if they could take the kitten and they told us that it was too young and would likely die anyway and – I swear this is what they said – to flush it down the toilet! We were stunned but immediately went into rescue mode. My mom wrapped it up in a towel and we ended up feeding it from a doll baby bottle. Long story short the cat lived to the ripe old age of 16 and was the most loving feline I’ve ever known. I really do think rescued animals have a sense of how fortunate they are. Anyway, thanks again for sharing!

  20. It really is a surprising little gem, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation Mark. 🙂

  21. Glad you found value in the post Jeri, and I’m so happy to hear that you’re nearing the end of your treatment! 🙂

  22. Glad you enjoyed it Sonal. 🙂

  23. I love this post, Marty. Gratitude is a big part of my life. One of the most important things that I am grateful for daily is the feeling I get when I am in the shower. I am grateful for access to clean water, and I am grateful for the feeling that wonderfully warm water puts in my skin. I know that there are millions (maybe billions?) of people who do not have access to clean fresh water, and have probably never had a hot shower. One last thing I’ve got to say is how a stray cat we adopted really could show gratitude. He was grateful for everything we did to and for him from the day we took him in. He’s passed on now, but I wish my current (spoiled) cat understood the concept of gratitude the way that poor homeless fellow had. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…zChocolat: exquisite gift chocolates created in the French traditionMy Profile

  24. Mark

    Wow M!

    Haley’s “Ted Talk” is a very inspiring wake up call, is it not? And along with your enlightening thoughts as well, it just goes to show you, with the right perspective and a truly open mind.

    There is absolutely so much to be truly grateful for! And the best part is, there is no shortage of ways or reasons for doing so.

    And typically, after you boil it all down, it truly is the (so called) little things and pleasantries of life, which we ultimately value most.

    Thanks for helping us be ever mindful, for this far too often neglected, train of thought!

  25. Jeri

    I’ve been entertaining the idea of developing a gratitude ritual for about as long as I’ve been trying to develop a meditation habit, which is to say for longer than I’d care to admit. As I come to the end of treatment and continue to work with my therapist, those are two areas at the top of my list for the year ahead. Thanks too for the Ted link and the Amazon link 🙂

  26. Sonal Talwar

    Hi Marquita

    A great post! I really liked the video you have shared. gratitude is something we need to follow daily. it is something that should be a part of our nature. Loved the lines: Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good, even in an unpleasant situation.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Sonal Talwar recently posted…Are hotter temperatures helping mosquitoes spread dengue?My Profile

  27. Toyin Yayu says:

    Thank you for this. I have learnt a lot from this. Gratitude is key.
    Toyin Yayu recently posted…Respect YourselfMy Profile

  28. Good examples Debra. In fact, and I can relate, especially to the snow. I just moved to OR last year after living most of my life in HI and experienced my first winter here. The morning I woke up and saw snow on the ground for the first time I squealed like a little girl and ran outside and took photos. I live in the woods so it was like a wonderland and my neighbor caught me and we had a good laugh. What a lovely memory. Thanks for contributing to the conversation!

  29. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the post and video Chery. 🙂

  30. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Rosmary! A nice walk outside is my favorite go-to soother as well. It’s not as cold, but it has been dark and rainy here and this afternoon the rain stopped long enough for me to take Lucy for a walk down the hill to check the mail and it was so much fun watching her jumping in the leaves and doing her hoover impersonation as she smells every blade of grass. Of course, she was a muddy mess by the time we got back home but it was worth it to see her so happy. Thanks for sharing with us!

  31. Good example Phoenicia. As you’ve pointed out it’s pretty easy to be grateful for the obvious things, that doesn’t make them any less important, but there is SO much magic in the world if we’re only willing to slow down and look for it. Thanks my friend!

  32. Debra Yearwood

    I have so many reasons to be grateful, including all the big ones you mentioned off of the top, but funnily, what popped into my head were the little things. Like the moment you realize you have another hour of sleep before your alarm goes off or waking to the first snowfall of the season.

  33. Chery Schmidt

    Hello Marty! I to was inspired and touched with Haley’s video! What a great project to take a photo everyday for a year! Life is to short not to remind ourselves how much we have to be grateful for.

    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Chery :))

  34. Love this: “You can give yourself this gift by choosing to become mindful of your day-to-day experiences and understanding how the littlest of things can create moments of sheer joy.”
    Making myself aware of gratefulness has helped me feel like my load is lightened. In the midst of some website frustration this afternoon, I went out for a ten minute walk. It was brisk, with the wind dropping the temperature another ten degrees–into the high 20s. I hate being cold–hate it. But like Phoenicia said, I found myself happy that I had on warm clothes and would go home to a warm home.
    Gratefulness–that is a good way to build emotional resilience!

  35. Phoenicia

    Gratitude is definitely a trait I need to work on daily. At times I can get tied up with focusing in what I do not have as oppose to what I do have. I am thankful for those things money can and cannot buy; good health for me and family, safety of me and family, a roof over our head, food to eat, a good job despite the long commute. One evening I popped outside to place an item in the recycled bin. It was terribly cold and I thought of the homeless who have no home to go to, who will spend the night outside desperately trying to keep warm. I was grateful then.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Where is your self-worth?My Profile

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