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As you celebrate Thanksgiving, you’re probably spending time with people you love and taking time to reflect on and appreciate all that you have.
You might even tell yourself you should practice being thankful more often.
But if you’re like me, thankfulness takes a back seat as the rush and stress of the holiday season takes over.
Adopting an “attitude of gratitude” might come back into focus as you think about setting goals, building habits, or making resolutions for the new year.
It makes sense to you that happiness and positivity are directly related to gratitude. But you should also consider that your health, relationships, and finances can be impacted by it too.
If you can’t seem to find joy, have a negative attitude, or aren’t happy with other parts of your life – including your financial health – read on to learn more in my review of M.J. Ryan’s book, Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life.
Even if you think you’re pretty good at being thankful or use a gratitude journal each day, you might be stuck at “level one” like me.
M.J.’s book shows there are things you can do to grow your gratitude and find more meaning and joy in life.
Additional Reading: How Do I Adopt An Abundance Mindset and Why Is It Important?
Attitudes of Gratitude includes an introduction and the following five chapters:
1. The Simple Joy of Living From a Grateful Heart
This chapter discusses some of the emotional and physical benefits of showing gratitude. M.J. stresses that she’s not coming at the topic as an expert. Rather, as someone working to become more grateful.
She explains it can be difficult to push past pessimism at times. But making a conscious choice to commit to being thankful gets easier.
Since many of us are programmed to focus on what we’ve done wrong or on what we don’t have in life, shifting our focus to being more grateful helps us track success – “to notice what is right in our lives.”
2. The Gifts of Gratitude
In this chapter, M.J. shares all of the things that can happen in your life if you practice gratitude.
One thing I connected with was her explanation of the people you enjoy spending time around. Many of my friends “live from a grateful heart” as often as possible and tend to be optimistic and happy people. If you're this way, you probably have a lot of people who enjoy being around you too.
This chapter also discusses how gratitude widens our “frame of vision.” It points out that even if we might face some serious challenges tomorrow, you can always try to find good in something today.
For those of us who are Type-A or busy climbing the ladder of success – jumping from one goal to the next – practicing gratitude can slow us down to be more present each day. She even goes so far as to say that gratitude cures perfectionism.
3. The Attitudes of Gratitude
This chapter goes into more detail about the outlook you need to take to grow your gratitude.
We can’t just be thankful for all the “good” things we have or experience. Reflecting on the “bad” also provides us with a chance to learn and grow.
Something I’ve been guilty of is suggesting that others (including my kids) should be grateful for what they have. M.J. talks about gratitude flowing naturally and that we should introduce it to our children but not make them feel ashamed of their good fortune.
She also discusses the idea of retroactive gratitude and learning to appreciate things before they are gone.
4. The Practices of Gratitude
In this chapter, M.J. shares practical ways to develop and maintain thankfulness each day. Her comment about “moving past lip service” and working the “gratitude muscle” is what I know I need to do.
When you move past thinking about what you’re thankful for and start taking action is what moves you toward more meaning and joy.
In addition to finding a daily “practice” (journaling, meditation, or some other ritual that works for you), M.J. suggests that growing your gratitude means defining your needs and not masquerading them as wants.
Adjusting your expectations, revisiting goals, and looking for what’s right in your life are also important practices to consider.
In the rest of the chapter, M.J. goes on to share a number of gratitude practices. None of them are difficult or time-consuming, but committing to following them in our busy days is the challenge.
5. Deepening the Journey
The last chapter is about the three levels of gratitude – contentment, meaning, and joy. If you are generally thankful and appreciative, you might be content with how you practice gratitude.
But you might also be missing out on gratitude becoming a more meaningful part of your life and creating more joy each day.
M.J.leaves readers with twelve different ways to bring more thankfulness into their lives.
Attitudes of Gratitude is a fast read. But it’s a good idea to just read a section or two each day as she suggests in the introduction. There’s no way to implement what she discusses in the book without taking your time.
This may be one reason I feel “stuck” with gratitude. I’m thankful for the same things over and over. While that gives me a more optimistic spirit, I’m missing out by adding “giving thanks” to a checklist of things to do each day.
Some of what M.J. suggests in the book doesn’t fit my personality. But I also believe the saying about “magic” happening outside your comfort zone. It’s time to do some stretching to make more progress.
This is a good book for people who want to move past their annual “day of thanks” at Thanksgiving time. It doesn’t require a lot of effort or time – just some focus.
The only thing I didn’t like was a few “miracle” examples. There was also more talk of the universe and spiritual references than I’m used to reading.
Random Acts of Kindness
Interesting note! I’m sure you’ve heard of random acts of kindness. Maybe you’ve even performed some or been on the receiving end of a gift.
I was surprised to learn that M.J. was the founder of Conari Press, creator of the New York Times bestselling Random Acts of Kindness series back in 1995. A few decades later, M.J. wrote a follow-up “then and now” Random Acts of Kindness book will not only make you happy but also urge you to take action too.
Book review written by Vicki