Basically, you stand there (or sit) and just thank Hashem for every single thing you can think of for as long and as much as you can.
You can experience salvation from just that alone.
But there is another "short-cut," and that involves focusing on enjoying yourself and side-stepping your yetzer hara in that way.
The Shabbos-Reading Conundrum
Anyway, your goal is to fill yourself up with good acts and good thoughts and good middot (qualities) until there is no room left for anything bad.
In a sense, it's really doing sur m'ra v'aseh tov (turn from evil and do good) backwards with the intention of turning from evil as you go along.
(If you ignore sur m'ra completely, you end up like those people who just pick and choose or who constantly seek out loopholes for their weaker points.)
I'll give you an example.
When I first started keeping Shabbat, way back in the USA, I encountered 3-day holidays and extremely late sunsets. As all you chutznikim know, some years bring a 3-day fiesta with every chag. And depending on where you live, a summer Shabbat can end long after bedtime.
Friends and spending Shabbat with enjoyable hosts still made this all enjoyable, but you can still end up with a lot of free time, especially if you get stuck in a non-religious environment on your own.
So I read a lot. But I wasn't picky about what I read and anyway, I didn't immediately know the importance of Shabbat-compatible reading material.
(This gets further compounded if you see your otherwise fine frum host reading the newspaper or news magazine with his bowl of cereal before heading off to his 9 AM davening, which was what it was like in many communities in America at that time.)
Even more challenging, there wasn't a whole lot of frum reading material at that time. Frummies barely even had magazines! (And now you've got a dozen.)
Then I learned that you were supposed to confine your reading material to "the spirit of Shabbat."
I confess that I initially ignored it.
How could I spend hours reading something like a formal English commentary on the Parsha? Or an English translation of a mussar book. Yes, read them of course. Of course! But to spend the entire afternoon and evening doing so? EVERY Shabbat? And what about those 3-day yantivs, eh?
But then some very riveting and inspiring frum Holocaust memoirs starting appearing, so I joined lots of women in reading those. But depending on the content, they're not exactly within the spirit of Shabbat if you consider that Shabbat is supposed to be a joyful time.
So I tried to concentrate on whatever I deemed "kosher" novels and books and magazines for Shabbat. And I kept this up for quite a while.
Occasionally, I made a stab at reading purely Torah, Shabbat-spirited material ONLY, but found such restriction too much of a strain.
But the more I delved into Torah Judaism and put into practice and learned, the more I changed on the inside without even realizing it.
At one point, I found that even a "kosher" secular book or article took me out of Shabbat.
This was a good sign because it meant that I'd finally become sensitized to the sanctity of Shabbat.
So it started off with mild disorientation, but I still wanted to be entertained in the conventional way.
Then it kept getting stronger. I started to feel a kind of yuck when I'd get up from my non-Shabbosy Shabbos reading.
Once, as a guest in someone's empty apartment, I discovered a whole array of American news magazines out in the open on a magazine stand. And what tantalizing topics! That Shabbat, I kept reading them until I made my soul sick. The contrast was so tangible and so unpleasant this time, I instinctively resolved to stick to only frum books from now on.
(This still included Holocaust memoirs, BTW.)
As time went on, I even had a couple of Harry Potter novels on the end table which I kept glancing at throughout Shabbat, but didn't pick up. (Even though I knew better, I was still a big Harry Potter fan at one point.) And it wasn't a wrenching challenge because my refusal was emotional and not intellectual.
As time went on and I kept progressing in my mitzvah observance (with the normal set-backs that accompany any spiritual advancement) and connecting to the spirit of Shabbat, my reading material kept narrowing down, but for emotional reasons, not intellectual ones.
Meaning, I didn't need to struggle with resisting the temptation to read this or that. The temptation was either barely there or not there at all.
So I wasn't feeling deprived or in a constant battle with the yetzer hara.
And to be perfectly upfront, I still occasionally peruse something that's not completely within the spirit of Shabbat, but that occurs maybe once a year or every two years.
The Pros & Cons of Gritting Your Teeth
But the thing is that those types who tend to succeed in this manner also become kind of hard and judgmental.
You see them marching along with a set jaw and a hard or determined look in their eyes.
But they get a certain gratification from knowing that they are fighting the good fight and see their misery as a sign that they're in the trenches, which means they're doing the right thing. And they do a lot of good things. They end up running things or being the go-to person for certain tasks or say yes whenever asked to do a mitzvah like visiting the sick or hosting guests, etc.
At the same time, because they're weighted down and acting out of self-compulsion rather than simcha shel mitzvah, they don't always do these mitzvot graciously. They can be tough hosts or inflexible administrators of whatever task they've taken on.
And they tend to believe that whatever iron-clad behavior they engage in is good for the recipient and will explain exactly why their limitations benefit the recipient (who may not sense the benefit).
Having said that, there are some traits you do just need to grit your teeth and get down to work on them directly because you can't just ignore them while you focus on pumping up their positive opposites. You just can't allow certain behaviors to get out of hand.
And it goes without saying that you are supposed to do a daily cheshbon hanefesh.
But for myself, I realized pretty quickly that I can't function in a constant state of miserable grit. I'm not very good at suffering. Life feels very ugly and overwhelming in that state, and I don't feel any sense of satisfaction of a job well-done in that state, which the above people obviously do feel. Also, I can't just brush off the unbending cold interactions with people that this state often ends up producing. I feel bad if I can't host guests with warmth, etc. For me, just the bare fact of "doing it" feels way below par unless I'm doing it "right."
So if you're like me (maybe a bit too hedonistic to "enjoy" maintaining a stiff upper lip, a clenched jaw, and general emotional suffering), then focusing on strengthening the good points and gathering insights into the deeper meanings and spiritual aspects of different mitzvot might be the way to go (while still gritting your teeth in certain other areas of your personality when necessary).
Putting It into Action
Let's say you tend to get resentful and envious and covetous of others. The minute you start to feel that encroaching sense of bitterness or resentment, what can you do?
You have at least 3 options:
1) You can just catch yourself WITHOUT identifying the feelings as "the evil trait of envy" or "the strict Torah prohibition of covetousness as stated in the Ten Commandments" and immediately start blessing the other person. You can murmur the blessing or think it in your head silently. If someone has exactly the car you want, you can say, "I wish for this person to be able to afford an even nicer car — or to receive more cars just like this one! Hashem, may you bless this person that this car never breaks down and that this person never experience any hardship from this car."
2) You can also say, "Thank You, Hashem, that I don't have such a car. Even though I really want one, I realize that my not having it means that having my junky car (or not having a car at all) is what's best for me because everything You do is for my very best. So thanks, God!"
3) Or you can just ignore everything and dive straight into counting your own blessings: "Thank You, Hashem, for giving me a good working refrigerator, I have indoor plumbing, I have comfortable shoes, I've got a real comfy pillow, etc."
Whatever makes you happy.
Having said that, you may be gritting your teeth at first as you do it. But usually, you'll start to feel some good pretty quickly.
But wait! Didn't I just say that you need to avoid teeth-gritting?
Yes! So depending on what you're working on and how you decide to go about it, you may need some grit to get you over the initial hurdle.
But then you get to feeling good. Also, when you bless others and wish the best for them (however much you manage to work up in your heart at any given moment), Hashem sends blessing to you.
So when you do that, it starts feeling good and you have that to look forward to next time it hits you.
It's not like you're saying, "I must not feel envy. Envy signifies a serious lack of emuna. I must control my mind and my heart to prevent any envy from entering."
That's pretty heavy. And like I said, some people can manage this way. But I'm not one of them.
With Shabbat reading, I didn't even try to limit myself. I just kept on going with enhancing Shabbat and the reading material adjusted on its own.
(BTW, talking to Hashem regularly really helps with this because it gives you something really beneficial and enjoyable to do on Shabbat, if you can find that private moment.)
But with envy or hatred, I find I need to side-step it more proactively.
So it depends.
And it is a process. At first, maybe you don't want to try at all. Then you kind of bounce back and forth before finally being catapulted up to the next level.
Okay, so the point here is that you work according to your own personality and do what feels good with the intention of self-improvement, but without focusing overly much on "I'm firmly engaged in an intense program of self-improvement!" (unless of course, that makes you feel good and happy).