The 5 Levels of Gratitude

Mar 17, 2024

This week, we’re going to be talking about the 5 Levels of Gratitude. 

Gratitude is your thankfulness for life’s little and larger blessings. We all probably know some of the benefits of gratitude such as helping us feel happier, helping us form stronger connections with the things that matter to us in life, and even boosting our immunity and heart health!

But did you know that there are 5 levels of practicing gratitude?

This week we’re going to talk about what each level looks and feels like. You can see which level you’re at right now, and possibly be inspired to move up a level.

But remember: it’s not a contest, and there is no judgment about how you may feel on a given day — that said, gratitude is a very powerful tool, and building our “gratitude awareness” can help us think about how we want to feel in the future.

Level 1 — No gratitude. 

At Level 1, you might feel stuck in a loop of negativity. This is where you’re so trapped by negative thoughts that it is hard to recognize things to be grateful for. 

At this level, you may feel more comfortable focusing on what didn’t go right, or complaining about what you don’t have. When you feel really stressed — and often by really legitimate things! — it’s easy to get stuck here. Perhaps you’ve been at this level at some point in your life, or you know someone who currently is. 

Here’s a tip if you’re at this level: Try relaxing your facial muscles, and see if you can smile. You might need to fake it to start.

But it’s true — smiling reduces stress, and improves our mood and overall well-being. If you can’t feel it for real, maybe you can at least get a chuckle out of yourself for doing something silly 😜

At this level, it can be helpful to try to practice gratitude for really ordinary but special things: a butterfly, a nice cloud, your morning cup of coffee… start small, and try to find something beautiful that might go unnoticed by other people.

Level 2 — Recognize and Record Your Gratitude

Level 2 is when you recognize the things and people you are grateful for. Many people are at this level.

If you’re not here yet, one thing you can do is to keep a gratitude journal and write down things you are grateful for when they happen in real-time.

Three ideas to express gratitude:

📚 Keep a gratitude journal and write down 1-3 things you’re grateful for each day.

🫙 Start a gratitude jar and write down your gratitudes on slips of paper each day until you fill up the jar. Once a month, empty the jar and read all of your gratitudes.

💌 Write somebody in your life a handwritten note. Tell them what you love and appreciate about them.

Level 3 — Gratitude For What’s Coming

Level 3 involves some higher-level thinking. It’s the ability to experience gratitude in advance and to be grateful for something that hasn’t happened yet, but is coming. 

Think about something in your life that you want, but haven’t gotten yet. Maybe it’s that connection with a new friend you want to develop, or a business you want to start, but you don’t have yet. Now imagine being grateful that it’s coming your way.

Stop reading now and check-in with yourself: What is something small that's coming your way that you are excited about?

Some tips to get to this level is to practice visualization, recite affirmations, and even create a vision board of what you want in your life. These are powerful tools that can help you manifest your goals by realizing that you can take small actions towards them every day. 

Here are three ways to start thinking about what's ahead:

✍🏽 Start a visualization practice by writing down what you want and engaging in all 5 senses — how do you want to feel? What do you want to see? Smell? Hear? Taste?

🗣️ Create powerful affirmations around what you want and recite them every day.

🌅 Put together a vision board with pictures of how you want your life to feel and keep it somewhere you can see it daily.

Level 4 — Acceptance

Level 4 is Acceptance. Acceptance is seeing things as they are, without wanting to change them. It is about being okay with that in the moment. People at this level also need nothing external to feel grateful for. Gratitude is a way of life. It decorates their every conscious moment. 

To help get to this level, become aware of your thoughts and feelings. Notice when you resist what is happening, usually things that are beyond our control, and try to let go of that feeling. This can be extremely hard, and if it is hard for you, know that it is hard for most everyone.

Acceptance doesn’t mean you are happy with that situation, but rather at peace with it. Practice mindfulness or meditation to help you focus on the present moment, without making a plan for how things could change, and without wishing that they could be different.

Here are 3 ways to practice mindfulness to help you stay in the present moment:

🌿 Meditate — Taking even just 5 minutes to sit quietly and follow your breath can help you feel more conscious and connected for the rest of your day.

🌿 Slow Down — Savor the process, whether it’s writing a report, drinking a cup of tea, or cleaning out closets. Deliberate and thoughtful attention to daily actions promotes healthy focus and can keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

🌿 Spend Time In Nature — Take walks through a park, the woods, mountain trails or by the beach – wherever you can be outside. Getting outdoors is good for body, mind and spirit, and keeps you in the present.

Level 5 — Being Grateful In The Face Of Adversity

Level 5 is the deepest level, and it is when you feel transformed by gratitude. 

At level 5, you can learn to be grateful even for adversity. 

At this level, we are grateful even for things that aren’t good. We celebrate our mistakes for the learning we gain from making them. 

We celebrate our loss as a reminder of the gift that it was. We celebrate our hurts because they attune us to humanity. We celebrate divorce for the experience the relationship has offered us, the lessons we have learned, and for the possibility of a better relationship as a result.

Just for today, consider dipping deeper in your gratitude practice. 

Can you feel grateful today for something simple and ordinary, such as a glass of clean water…or your ability to breathe? 

Eventually you might get transformed wherein you are grateful even for adversity. It will help you more quickly recover from adversity — the hallmark of resilience. 

Final Thoughts on Gratitude

Don’t mistake building the gratitude muscle for always having to be happy, or needing to avoid anger, sadness, and pain.

We aren’t robots, and we need to feel our emotions. Gratitude is just about being able to see the bigger picture of life, too. Don't judge yourself if you are having a difficult time feeling grateful on a tough day.

Just remember that gratitude is a powerful tool in your toolbox — you can try some of the strategies in this post if and when it feels right to you.

See you in some of the sessions this week!

— Scott