'To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour' (William Blake).
It is difficult to discuss the importance of gratitude without sounding preachy, and for that I apologise. However, I think that it is important not to shy away from the topic, because the practice of nurturing a sense of gratitude has been shown to have beneficial effects on psychological wellbeing, physical health, and both personal and workplace relationships. Perhaps, when thinking about gratitude, it reminds you of childhood experiences of being told to be grateful, and how you were left feeling like a bad person if you did not keep saying thank you for what seemed like small, mundane things, that you felt you had a right to, at the time. The unfortunate link between the expectation of others for us to feel grateful, and our own sense of guilt for not always being able to feel or express it enough to satisfy these adults, can remain with us as we grow older, and colour our own relationship with gratitude.
We can think that life should be as we want it to be, and that it is not a 'big deal' if we have most of what we need to survive in this world (for example, food, water, and shelter). We know that we 'should' feel grateful, but it is not something we truly experience, and instead we feel guilty when told to 'be grateful.' Also, we often overlook the most important things in life, which without we cannot survive (for example, the air we breathe, food, water, shelter, our relative good health). This is because we feel that most of these things have not been given to us (i.e. they just exist in nature), so why should we feel grateful? It is very easy to think of gratitude as a way of offer platitudes to bolster other people's egos, rather than a recognition of everything that both gives us life and enhances it.
Trying to be grateful does not work, as we cannot make ourselves feel something. Instead, we can nurture an intent to be grateful. One way of doing thing this is to reflect upon what we have to be grateful for each day, before going to bed at night. If you find it difficult to think of something, remember that you can include everyday things, such as having food to eat, a smile from a stranger, a phone call from a friend or family member; i.e. not just considering special or 'big' events to be worthy of gratitude. It is important not to just habitually think of the same thing each day (although you can repeat parts of your 'list'). This is because it is the practice of actively reflecting upon the day, through the lenses of gratitude, that is helpful.
I invite you to watch a the TED talk video clip, below, that discusses the value of gratitude. The speaker, David Steindl-Rast, states that 'people are not grateful because they are happy, but happy because they are grateful.'