One such form of gratitude is the type we exhibit for the things we are privileged enough to maintain possession of. You might be grateful for your wool coat and the comfort it provides in the biting chill of winter, or the knit mittens that protect your fingers and remind you of your sister every time you pull them on. In these cases, you might not be directing your gratitude to a particular person; instead, you merely appreciate that you possess a treasured item that is yours, and yours alone. While such expressions of materialistic gratitude are often brought up in the context of capsule wardrobes or Konmari, you don’t need to be in the middle of purging your possessions to realize a deep thankfulness for the items at your fingertips.
Of course, appreciation exists not only for material luxuries, but also for unique circumstances and experiences. Sometimes, these experiences are probably better in hindsight—think, for example, of the years of piano lessons that had you stuck inside while your friends were running around the park, or the endless swim team practices that kept you away from not one but both of your best friends’ sweet sixteen birthday parties. You might have been glum at the time, but upon reflection, you’re grateful that you can teach a younger cousin how to play a simple tune on a keyboard, or for the tough-it-out character your years of competitive swimming bestowed upon you, which helped you when you spent a year at that grueling job.
Ultimately, one of the most valuable expressions of gratitude is thankfulness towards yourself. Perhaps it is human nature to constantly compare ourselves to others, measuring the height of our achievements against a ruler that seems to stretch longer and longer with time. It is easy to feel out-ranked and out-matched when we see picture-perfect scenes and the newest trends crowding out our own accomplishments every time the screens of our phones and computers and tablets light up. In a world where great value is placed on the ability to build empires from scratch with nothing but willpower and ambition in the face of adversity, it is easy to take ourselves (and the things we have been given) for granted and forget just how fortunate we are to be in the positions we are now. Sometimes, any mistake or unpredictable outcome feels like a personal failure. However, rather than thinking about what you could have done instead or what you should have thought about before, it can be helpful to recall the bits and pieces that did fall into place. Perhaps you bungled up your presentation—rather than blaming yourself for staying up into the wee hours and relying on caffeine to keep you alert when you should have known your mind would be a foggy web, you can be grateful that you had the opportunity at all to present your work to a receptive audience.