Instead, what I've found to be effective is noticing great things as they happen and, most importantly, verbalizing your gratitude. As children we are taught to say "thank you" when someone clearly does something to help us or gives us something. What isn't always instilled, however, is the need to express appreciation for the less obvious, yet equally important, things that happen in our lives. Here's a list of some areas of your life to verbalize your thankfulness for.
In friendshipsIt can become very easy to get comfortable in a friendship and take for granted kindness and helpfulness. Your friend invited you to go to an event with her? Say thank you. Your friend cooked dinner for both of you and didn't ask for anything in return? Say thank you. By verbalizing your gratitude you are not only recognizing your friend's effort, but also reinforcing positive elements of your relationship.
With familyThis is a particularly challenging domain because you may (like me) have the expectation that your family will do kind things for you and be supportive, but the reality is that they are making the conscious choice to do so. Having appreciation for the effort they put forth will make you more aware of the seemingly little actions they take and will be a great way to communicate your reciprocating love. We all like to know that our efforts aren't going unnoticed, so make sure to do this, especially with the most important people in your life.
Don't forget strangersIt is essential to remember when interacting with others that everyone has something they are dealing with. It can be hard not to get wrapped up in what is going on in your own life, so when someone is kind and helpful to you (acting as a decent person or going above the call of duty) it is good to mention it. You can make their day in the same way they contributed to yours. If you have a particularly good waiter, leave a large tip and mention it to their supervisor. If your Uber driver is stellar, give a great rating and let him/her know that he/she made a positive impact on you. Saying thank you is another way of spreading positivity, and that can continue to extend past the initial interaction as you each carry it with you throughout your day.
Oh, and you too
I love the quote "There is only one relationship you will be in forever and that is with yourself." In fact, I wrote a whole post on 5 ways to be your own best friend because I value self reliance and appreciation; when it comes down to it, the person you are living with forever is you! When you know you have done something well, or helped someone out, or made a good choice, take a moment to say thank you to yourself. Just as when you interact with others you should provide positive affirmation, the same goes for you. Tell yourself "thank you" for eating those carrots instead of chips or for completing a really productive study session.
"Thank you" are two very powerful words that should be used liberally. The more you take notice of and express gratitude the more positive and thankful you will feel.
How do you say thank you? What areas of your life are you particularly thankful for?