It helps to set a goal for the day: "I will give three good compliments today." It sets your attention to look for things you appreciate all day long.
Doing this, you get the benefit of having your attention on the lookout for what you sincerely like, and that is a positive frame of mind.
But in addition, and more importantly, when you do this often, you start living and working in an environment that grows increasingly positive as the people around you begin to realize you are noticing and appreciating the good things they do. They are in better moods, and they are motivated to take more good actions. It creates a positive, upward spiral of good feelings and good actions.
To give a really good acknowledgment, you will have to take the time to think of something that isn't genetic or came about by pure luck, and that you genuinely appreciate. You'll have to dig in and find what you have been taking for granted that, if it was gone, you would really realize you would miss, and that, now that you come to think of it, you really do appreciate but have been ignoring. (Use comparison-reframes to help you with this.)
The reason you want to avoid complimenting genetic things is that it is best to compliment the choices and efforts people make. When someone chooses to put in extra effort to do something well, the choice and the effort is voluntary and therefore legitimately praiseworthy.
If someone was born with a fine-looking face, and you compliment their face, the compliment is not for the person, really, it is for their genetic luck. There is nothing to feel proud about in that, and the compliment somehow feels flat and emotionally meaningless. The person herself had nothing to do with the structure of her face, and cannot take credit for it. Or if she did take credit, it would be vanity, which is a far cry from personal pride.
However, if you compliment someone on the quality of their work, or the extra time they took to do something, or the kindness and consideration they showed in dealing with you, the compliment has some traction. It will have an emotional impact because it is truly meaningful and legitimately praiseworthy.
Also, the more specific you are, the better the compliment. "I appreciate how thoughtful you were when you responded to that woman, and how considerate you were when you answered her difficult question." That is a more specific and memorable compliment than something like, "Good job," or, "You're great."
Be specific about exactly what you appreciate. What did you see and hear, specifically? And why do you appreciate it? What does it mean to you? How does it make you feel?
So that is your mission today, if you should decide to accept it. Start to train yourself to focus your attention on what is good. Overcome your natural negative biases and start creating better feelings immediately. This mission is a great way to do that: Give three good compliments today.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot.