Gratitude and Frugality

I've been working a lot lately with the concept of gratitude and how it can attract amazing things into your life. And in so doing, I'm amazed at how my own life, happiness, and attitude has transformed.

A few months ago, I was dealt some heavy blows that knocked me back a few steps. Ironically I was simultaneously slated to write a post about things to be happy about, which was a lucky stroke, as it started me on my path of exploring gratitude. (See also: 25 Ways to Say Thanks)

The Cost of Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude in its purest form is absolutely free. It's an emotion simply borne of being thankful for something or somebody.

How we choose to express our gratitude towards others is where cost can become a factor. This is when we start dealing with social customs, politics, and expectations — which create the varying price-tag for thankfulness.

But gratitude is about so much more than simply expressing thanks to somebody for something. We can be grateful for all sorts of things, and that gratitude — in turn — can bring so many more amazing things into our lives.

Simply holding a grateful state of mind can be transformative in itself.

The Power of a Passing Smile

I met a man who suffered a series of traumatic vehicle accidents, the last of which left him paralyzed and completely disfigured. After dozens of reconstructive surgeries, he had lost his confidence, happiness, and hope.

His savior came one day, when he was out and about (in his wheelchair). His self-esteem was so shot that he usually averted other people's eyes, which normally expressed horror at his disfigurements.

But one fleeting look upwards one day revealed a woman who was walking by, who simply gave him a passing smile.

Nothing more. Just a smile.

That smile changed this man's life. With a renewed surge of energy and commitment, he underwent the remaining surgeries, and eventually moved on to recover from his paralysis in ways that even the doctors hadn't predicted was possible.

The passing smile didn't cost that woman a thing. And to this day she probably has no idea, but it changed — even saved — a man's life.

So gratitude — and expressing it — can be very frugal indeed.

This is not to say we should all walk around with smiles plastered on our faces — especially if they're not sincere. But if we generally focus on gratitude and the things we are grateful for, our chances of being bright and positive are significantly higher.

Finding and Expressing Gratitude (Frugally)

Here are just a few ways to feel and express gratitude — almost none of which cost money.

  1. The next time you cook a big meal, spontaneously invite your neighbor to join you, or share your leftovers with somebody. (Hint — bake a cake and share it, and you'll have lots of grateful friends!)
  2. Start a gratitude journal. Don't worry about having to write something in it every day. Simply carry a small notebook around wherever you go, and jot down things you are grateful for. By reframing your day in this way, you may discover many things (big and small) that you're grateful for.
  3. Join CouchSurfering or another hospitality exchange site and host a traveler visiting your home town. All you have to do is offer up a place to sleep (by being grateful for the roof over your own head), and the gratitude that you'll get in return from a weary traveler can be enormous.
  4. Eat consciously. Next time you enjoy a good meal, focus entirely on that meal. Consider the journey of the food from its origins to your plate, and the number of people's lives it affected along the way.
  5. Call your mother on your birthday — and thank her. (She had a lot to do with it.)
  6. Make handmade cards. A lovely hand-written note (especially if the card itself is handmade) is a beautiful way to express gratitude. It doesn't even have to be a special occasion — in fact, the more mundane the day, the more special the card becomes.
  7. Go out for a day with your camera and take pictures of everything. When you peer at the world with the eye of a photographer, you tend to see, discover, and appreciate things you never previously noticed.
  8. Try being grateful when something bad happens. For example, maybe missing that bus and being late for work leads to meeting somebody new or some other positive experience you might not otherwise have had. Or conversely, maybe this minor mishap helped you to avoid a major one.
  9. Start a game of “pay it forward” at the drive-thru. Pay for the coffee that the person behind you has ordered, so when they drive up to the window they have a lovely surprise from a complete stranger. Hopefully they'll “pay it forward” and do the same for the car behind them.

The Effects of Gratitude

As with the law of attraction, the effects of expressing gratitude can't be directly measured, but could certainly be attributed to holding a positive state of mind and being.

Just ask anybody who as developed a vision board, played the prosperity game, or looked at 100 ways to change their lives; some amazing things can happen by simply reframing your way of thinking.

Since I've started actively focusing on gratitude on a daily basis, not only does everything tend to flow, but people are saying things like I “have magic in me.” A friend (who is a very straight-laced scientific sort of guy) told me he saw my aura — something that he wouldn't have believed in if he hadn't seen the white glittery light emanating from me.

I don't have magic powers, and who knows — maybe the friend who saw my aura was just drunk. But I do believe that acting out of positivity, being grateful for the many things — little and big, simple and complex — we have in life, can lead to amazing things.

And just like the passing smile the saved a man's life, it can have a ripple effect that nobody can possibly predict or control.

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Guest's picture

The best trick that I've found to remain thankful for what I have is to ask myself everyday "What are your three good things?" This forces me to come up with three good things that happened on that day and focus on the good instead of the bad. I've started this with my 6 year old niece and I see a major difference in her attitude. Before when I asked her how school was she would tell me everything bad that happened. Now, she immediately tells me the positive things. Give it a try!

Guest's picture

This is one of the best blog posts I have read in a while. The most important things in life are often intangibles, and so much can be affected by your state of mind. That is what gratitude really is, a state of mind that allows you to move through the world differently. It can change everything. Thank you for this wonderful post, the bit about your potentially drunk friend made me laugh.

Guest's picture

What a beautiful essay. I have been focusing on gratitude lately--a bit of a challenge because this year has been a string of catastrophes and mishaps. But when I can feel gratitude, it helps put the crazy-making stuff back to its proper perspective. I work for an employee assistance program and every day get to hear stories about the REAL disasters of domestic violence, elder abuse, evictions, and inability to pay for needed medications, among too many others, and I also get to see how my life is relatively safe and cushy. And then I stop feeling sorry for myself.

Guest's picture

What a great article. A friend recently forwarded a note to a group of friends and it said "what if you woke up tomorrow and had only those things you thanked God for the day before." Now even in taking out God, it made me think of the things I hadn't recently actively thought about and given thanks for. Pretty eye opening question considering I probably wouldn't have my family, friends, a meal or roof over my head. Thanks for writing this, especially during this holiday season.

Guest's picture

Last weekend I blogged about Gratitude on my blog and today as I was catching up on email/RSS feeds this post caught my eye. Like another commenter wrote, this is one of the best blog posts I have read in a while. I love it. Thank you for sharing.

Max Wong's picture

All your frugal ways of showing gratitude are fantastic. It's really true--you can choose to have a good day or a bad day (most days).

There's an (ancient) Chinese proverb that says: "If you can't change your circumstances, change your attitude."

Guest's picture

Your friend was drunk. Just kidding. I don't pretend I can see auras, but I do see people positively glow when they are happy and excited and enthusiastic and grateful and ...

I have an understanding of the Universe, that we are all God expressing, and that we summon the energies based on our thoughts and beliefs. Choosing to be grateful for as much as we can, flows positive energy into your life, and brings more of the things you are grateful for!