How to Be Truly Grateful for All the People In Your Life (Including Yourself)

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 16, 2015


That one simple three-syllable word can completely transform your life. Whether you are an ENTJ or an ISFP, here’s the great news: any personality can be grateful and what better season than Thanksgiving to practice. Not only does the holiday makes all of us more mindful of our blessings, it also gives us ample opportunity to interact with others and the chance to observe, learn from and appreciate one another and ourselves.

To be sure, I wasn’t always a grateful person – especially during the holidays. I suffered greatly from insecurity and I was always comparing myself to others. Whenever I did, in my own estimation, I fell pretty short. That was back when I thought there was a “right way” to be – before I discovered personality typing.

To me, it seemed as though everyone I knew was happier than me: more popular, organized, a better decorator and cook. The holidays seemed like the ideal time to hold up a mirror – but I always hated what I saw.

Once I was introduced to personality typing, I began to appreciate myself and others in totally new ways. All of a sudden I could truly admire those same talented cooks and organizers without rancor or jealousy because I began to applaud what I brought to the table, too. Sure, I might not be a wizard with candied yams and turkey, but I can and do contribute to the holiday in my own ways. I’m the one likely to be sensitive to everyone else’s needs, making sure the conversation keeps flowing and that everyone feels included. I became truly grateful for others and myself.

Fortunately, gratitude isn’t dependent on your personality type. It isn’t something you are, it’s something you do. In a way it’s a skill – the more you practice it the easier it becomes and Thanksgiving gives us all plenty of opportunity to practice!

Here are three ways I learned to become more grateful for the people, places and things in my life. Perhaps they’ll help you raise your GQ (gratitude quotient) too.

Begin with yourself

Like charity, gratitude can begin at home, and if you’re at all like me, this may be a difficult place to start. I’m a natural-born self-deprecator. I know my faults and foibles better than anyone else and I seem to dwell on them and call them to mind as often as possible. I lament certain aspects of my personality and focus on their downsides rather than the positive aspects.

I often bemoaned the fact that I was too loud, too sensitive, and I tried too hard to be the center of attention. I spent years trying to quell all the attributes that make me, well, me. I also invested too much time worrying about what I’m not. I’m not detailed, structure gives me the hives and while I’m great at initiating things, my follow-through is wanting.

Once I discovered personality typing, I understood that I was hardwired a particular way and started being grateful for my attributes instead of critical. I made a point of catching myself in the act of whining about the way I am. I mentally tasked myself with coming up with a positive for every negative thought and expressing gratitude for being the way I was.

True, I’m not great at sticktuitiveness, but if you’ve got a project you can’t get off the ground, I’m your girl. Instead of focusing on my inability to finish what I start, I concentrate on my abilities to generate fresh enthusiasm, light fires, and spark ideas. True, I tend to grab center stage, but in a room full of strangers that’s also what makes me the one that’s going to circulate, meet and greet and make everyone feel welcome.

Every time you catch yourself being critical of some aspect of your personality, find the upside of that same tendency and celebrate it. Once you’ve got a handle on accepting and (gasp) appreciating yourself, practice saying thank you. Try saying to yourself: “I’m grateful I’m _____________” (fill in the blank—quiet, sensitive, gregarious, tender-hearted, orderly, rational, etc.). If you find yourself slipping into bad habits and saying something critical, turn it right around with a “yes, but” declaration, like: “Yes, I am particular about my possessions, but I take good care of them and keep a tidy and attractive home.”

Singer and songwriter Willie Nelson said you cannot be depressed and grateful at the same time. You might also say you can’t be critical and grateful at the same time either.

Be grateful for others

Once we become less critical of ourselves, it’s easier to be less judgmental of others, too. In order to be more grateful for the people in your life, just practice extending the same grace to others that you use 0n yourself. When you find yourself becoming critical of someone else – loved one, co-worker, boss or acquaintance – see what happens when you focus on the positive aspects of their personality instead.

The “Yes, but” formula works well here, too: Yes, Aunt Alice can make you cringe with her exacting standards, routines and schedules, but aren’t those exactly the very same things that allow her to turn-out perfectly scrumptious holiday feasts for a table full of folks and everything comes out at exactly the right time?

Yes, Cousin Lennie certainly has an opinion on every imaginable topic, but isn’t it fascinating how knowledgeable he is on so many subjects? Rather than tuning him out, draw him out and invite him to weigh in on current events and topics of interest.

As you sit around the Thanksgiving Day table, see what happens when you purposely find some reason to be grateful for every person around it. There is nothing quite like gratitude to dispel annoyance. Instead of dreading holiday get-togethers, embrace the opportunity to view everyone through the personality type lens. You may find friends and relatives more different than difficult.

Make it a yearlong habit

Thanksgiving is the ideal time to take stock of our lives and express gratitude for the people, places and things in them. It doesn’t have to be a once-a-year activity, however. One way to embrace the spirit of the holiday all year long is to invest in a blank journal and end each day writing one sentence about someone or something that happened that you feel particular grateful about. It’s a fabulous way to prepare for sleep, and reinforces your awareness of all the ordinary good things that happen each and every day.

Practice being thankful on a regular basis for those aspects of your personality that make you unique, and for the ones that make the other people in your life so interesting and meaningful.

I think we all have a gratitude “muscle” that only gets stronger and more developed the more we use it. See what happens when you exercise yours!

Ellen Lambert

Ellen Lambert studied at California State University Fullerton and the University of California Santa Barbara, earning an MA in interpersonal communication. A motivational speaker and writer focusing on health, well- being, and self-improvement, she is a card-carrying ENFP, and also serves as a BHQC, (bad habit quitting coach). She is committed to helping others free themselves from the habits that hold them back from living the lives they can enjoy. She lives with her ISTJ husband Charles and their INTP German Pincher, Rex Luther in Buffalo, Texas.

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About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.


John Kominitsky (not verified) says...

Thanks for the great reminder. It's like the reinforcement one probably finds in a church. Except; it's an inside, rather that outside search, for strength and purpose.

Ellen Lambert says...

Thanks so much for your comment, John K -- it actually helped me craft my response to SammyDoh (below) and clarified my own thinking. Yes! Gratitude is reinforcing -- at least from my own experience. The more gratitude I express, the more grateful I become. It's like wearing gratitude lenses. Once I start looking at the world through grateful eyes, I see more and more things to be grateful for. And, I'm grateful you took the time to read my article and respond to it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Guest (not verified) says...

It really doesn't make any sense whatsoever.


sammydoh says...

I really don't understand thank yous. If my mom comes into my room with a snack, I wouldn't thank her, I will ask her if she wiped her shoes and washed her clothes, followed by a blunt "what took you so long?" I don't see the need to thank them. If someone does something nice for you, it's because they want to.

Ellen Lambert says...

Thanks for reading and commenting Sammydoh -- here's my take on "Thank yous" -- they're like a combo-platter of good manners, civility and humanity -- it's sort of like when someone greets you and says: "Good Morning." Sure, they wanted to, but we usually respond because it's our way of acknowledging the effort they made. Thank yous acknowledge our appreciation to others. Gratitude is more of the internal acknowledgement that you appreciate having someone, something in your life. You recognize that you are blessed to have them/it, possibly, that not everyone else is as fortunate as you are. Thanking others is polite, expressing gratitude, even if it's never done out loud is humbling. That's my two cents. Again, thanks for your response!

Guest (not verified) says...

If I was your mom that would be the last time I did anything nice for you. A kind gesture deserves a kind receiving. It doesn't matter if they did it because they wanted to. It is good manners and common decency to express thanks for someone's kindness, period.

sammydoh says...

So it is more acceptance than expectance (not a word, but you get the idea)?
But this still seems just another way to celebrate mediocrity.


Ellen Lambert says...

Love your word, Sammydoh! Expectance! And it illustrates the concept so well, yes! Thank You!

sammydoh says...


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