How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

For every hut they built, the Pilgrims dug 7 graves

Posted Nov 24, 2013

I love the Thanksgiving holiday because it is a reminder to us all that we need to be grateful for what we have—and the Pilgrims didn’t have much. Mostly they had hardships, but they still believed in gratitude.

The thing that eludes most of us is that this feeling of gratefulness needs to be part of our daily lives and be reflected in our behaviors, especially with those we love. Unfortunately, with the rigors of daily life, we can easily forget that we need to be thankful for whatever we have—even if our life isn’t what we think it should be.

You can’t bargain with gratitude. For example, it doesn’t work to say, “I’ll be grateful when I get this deal done or when he or she says they love me.” If gratitude isn’t a constant in your mental universe, then you may be pushing away some of what you want. Even if what you’re thinking goes unspoken, others will pick up on your attitude.

Creating the habit of gratitude is something that will serve you in all areas of your life. Those who are grateful have less resentment and are usually happier people. The benefits can even extend to your physical wellbeing, and nothing says “I love you” to your partner more than being grateful that he or she is in your life.

Having an attitude of gratitude tells the people we love that we not only appreciate them but also admire and respect them. This feeling gets communicated in all that we do with and for each other. It has more to do with happiness than most people think.

If you are hurt and angry, it is harder to find the gratitude within. You have to get past what is going on for you in the moment and seek some peace by remembering what you have to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving helps us remember that we need to be grateful, but the word alone does that. The experience really goes much deeper when we allow ourselves to feel thanks. Some people have a ritual where they say what they are grateful for at some point during the holiday meal. But really, giving thanks should be a daily ritual.

A gratitude journal is a tool that I’ve used to help many people heal depression and increase their happiness quotient. All you have to do is get a blank book or pad of paper and, before going to bed, write down several things you are grateful for. This little exercise has the power to change the way you feel. By putting pen to paper and reinforcing your own positive feelings, you confirm your emotions and strengthen yourself.

If you are doing this as a couple, you can try exchanging your lists to learn more about one another. It is a great way to share your deepest feelings for your relationship.

Gratitude will help you see that what you have is better than what it is you may think you want.

Where does happiness come from? Does happiness come after success, wealth, or the acquisition of a fancy car and expensive house? Do you get it from looking a certain way? Will it come once you find “the one?”

What if you actually need to be happy first for those things to come to you? What if the feeling comes before having the thing? Studies are showing that gratitude creates happiness more than just acquiring more things, here is why.

How gratitude creates happiness

Gratitude changes the way you see the world. When you start to appreciate all the things you have now happiness comes so much more easily. Being consciousness of the good things in life brings inner peace. If an unexpected challenge comes you know that you’ll be ok because you still have so much good in your life.

Like attracts like, right? So when you cultivate good energy inside yourself you attract more good energy.

This doesn’t mean you have to be grateful when something terrible happens like getting injured or losing a loved one, but gratitude can be there for you in spite of those challenging times.

Gratitude eliminates our dependence on external things. It allows us to focus inwards and on what’s really important in life.

Benefits of a Gratitude Practice

  • Increased happiness.
  • Greater self confidence.
  • Better sleep.
  • A more positive body image.
  • You stop feeling like you don’t have “enough.”
  • You see challenges as lessons instead of obstacles.
  • You notice more opportunities.
  • You are not defeated by failures.
  • The Mean Girl in your head becomes a cheerleader.
  • You attract other positive people.
  • Your happiness isn’t dependent on anyone or anything.
  • You are less prone to stress and anxiety.
  • You live in the present instead of the past or future.
  • You are physically and mentally healthier. Source: Why Gratitude is Good

How to make gratitude part of your daily life:

1. Keep a daily gratitude journal. You can type it into your phone or keep a notebook next to your coffee cup so you remember to write in it every morning. I have a reminder on my phone and list as many things as I can think of before bed.

2. Tell people “thank you.” Expressing gratitude to other people makes you both feel better. Whether it’s a stranger, family member, friend, coworker, or service worker, tell people thank you whenever you can. Especially service workers! They work really hard, usually for low pay, and have to deal with difficult people, so be extra nice to them! Telling people thank you encourages them to be more positive too so it keeps the cycle going.

3. Practice gratitude during meditation. In my How to Create a Magical Morning Routine post I listed some of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and how it actually changes your brain. Meditation is the perfect pairing to gratitude.

Sit or lay comfortably, take a few moments to just focus on taking slow, deep breaths, and when you feel calm visualize or think of the things you are grateful for. This is great to do as you are trying to fall asleep or before you get out of bed in the morning.

60 Things to be Grateful for

Everyday in November I’ll be writing down one new thing I’m grateful for and I challenge you to do the same. I’ve shared 60 ideas below and a free printable.

  1. Waking up safe every morning.
  2. Having the shelter of your home.
  3. Good books that expand your knowledge or imagination.
  4. Freshly washed sheets.
  5. Your heart that beats for you.
  6. Your lungs that breathe for you.
  7. Your legs that take you where you want to go.
  8. The beauty of the moon.
  9. Learning new things
  10. The sound and smell of rain.
  11. Having food to eat.
  12. Getting a good nights sleep.
  13. Cuddling with a pet.
  14. A great smelling candle.
  15. Long drives with great music.
  16. Cozy sweaters.
  17. Fall leaves crunching under your shoes.
  18. Freedom of speech.
  19. Chocolate.
  20. Music that moves you.
  21. Quiet moments where you can just be.
  22. Walks on the beach.
  23. Internet access.
  24. Libraries.
  25. Meditation.
  26. Clean water.
  27. A shower or bath after a long day.
  28. Living in the age of electricity and indoor plumbing!
  29. The feeling of a productive day.
  30. Good samaritans.
  31. Weekends.
  32. Being in nature.
  33. Air conditioning in the summer.
  34. Heaters in the winter.
  35. Movie/Netflix nights.
  36. Family and friends.
  37. Sunsets.
  38. Cool, crisp morning air.
  39. The smell of baked goods.
  40. Holiday decorations.
  41. Earth for sustaining all the forms of life it does.
  42. Fuzzy socks.
  43. Clear starry nights.
  44. Finding money where you didn’t expect it.
  45. Laughing until you cry.
  46. Warm laundry fresh out of the dryer.
  47. Lazy days.
  48. Cheesy romance novels.
  49. Your body.
  50. The people who accept you as you are.
  51. The power that comes from taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions.
  52. Inspiring people who you can learn from.
  53. Hard lessons that made you stronger.
  54. Getting packages in the mail.
  55. Finishing something you started.
  56. Your favorite outfit.
  57. That fresh feeling you get from cleaning your house.
  58. A warm drink on a cold day.
  59. When an old favorite song comes on.
  60. All the amazing things still to come.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

Get this free printable by clicking ‘download’ on the button below.

Final thoughts on why gratitude is so important

Taking a few moments every day to feel gratitude has brought more happiness into my life, and I hope this article encourages you bring a daily gratitude practice into your own life. I truly believe that gratitude is an essential part of finding happiness.

It’s so easy to feel like we can’t be happy until we have “the thing,” especially in the age of social media where we are told that we need to buy or experience x, y, and z to be happy. But we don’t need to wait for those things to be happy, we can let gratitude create happiness right now right where we are, with what we currently have.

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Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

Hero Images / Hero Images / Getty Images

Grateful people are happier people—this seems like wisdom you might find on a bumper sticker because of its obvious truth and positive feel, but research on gratitude also backs up this statement. When you have a moment when someone does something for you that fills your heart with grateful feelings of warmth, it can feel wonderful.

But you don’t have to wait for circumstances to bring this feeling to you—there are things you can do in your life to proactively create feelings of gratitude for yourself with the experiences you already have in your life, and create new experiences that will bring more feelings of gratitude to your life and to the lives of those around you. And with this gratitude comes several benefits, among them an increased resilience toward stress!

The following are proven strategies to bring more gratitude into your life and your relationships. Some of them are simple practices that you can try by yourself to bring a one-time burst of happiness; some of them are activities that can be practiced regularly to add an elevated sense of well-being to your mood. One or two of them are grand gestures that you will remember for years to come. Whatever you’re looking for, consider the following, and see how you may enhance your life with gratitude.

Smile!

Studies show that the simple act of smiling can actually change the way you feel, regardless of why you are smiling. Add to this the fact that many people instinctively smile back when they see a genuine smile on someone else’s face, and you gain double the benefits—you feel better yourself, and you are surrounded by a world of smiling, happy people. A smile can ease a difficult social interaction in a matter of seconds, reducing the amount of stress you may feel in an otherwise sticky social situation.

Maintain a Gratitude Journal

There are many proven benefits that come with journaling, including improved health and greater resilience. Maintaining a gratitude journal, however, brings an extra layer of benefit. At the end of each day (or when you need an emotional lift), write down three things for which you are grateful, and really savor the positive feelings that come when you think about them.

Maintaining a gratitude journal has been shown to lift depressed feelings and help relieve stress.

Practice the Loving Kindness Meditation

The loving-kindness meditation is one that is widely practiced and brings both the benefits of meditation and those of increased compassion and connection to others. It begins with a focus on positive, loving feelings toward self, and branches out from there. This type of meditation can help you to revel in feelings of gratitude you have for all of the important people in your life, and to develop greater feelings of gratitude for those with whom you may struggle.

Be Mindful of Your Comparisons

Virtually everyone can fall prey to feelings of envy—someone gets a promotion we felt we were meant to have, has the “perfect” relationship or insanely well-behaved children we always thought we’d have, or just seems to always have what we’re working hard for (and not getting) in our own lives. Usually, those who are prone to envy tend to compare the worst in their own lives to the best in someone else’s—rarely do we want to trade entire lives with someone else, but rather we wish we had that one thing that they have that would make our lives that much better. Or we compare their best day, quality, or circumstance with our worst.

If you find yourself wrestling with the green-eyed monster, you can untangle yourself from the brawl by altering your comparisons and adding some extra gratitude to the mix. If you find yourself wishing you had something that someone else has, remind yourself to notice what you have that they don’t—not in a competitive way, but in a, “Oh yes, I’m lucky, too!” way.

Also, if you find yourself feeling inferior because a friend does something better than you do, notice all the areas in your life where you excel, and be grateful for them. You get the idea—combat envy with pride in what you’re good at, and gratitude for what you have. Soon, this will become a sort of habit, and your bouts of envy will become even fewer and farther between.

Give a Hug And a “Thank You

Simply expressing gratitude with a quick word or an embrace can help you to feel more connected with others, and help them to feel more connected to you. These quick experiences can translate into positive feelings on both sides, as well as stronger relationships and all of the benefits that come with them.

Plan a Gratitude Visit

How many people have showed you kindness in your life—kindness that has changed your circumstances, given you something important when you needed it, or helped you in some way? When was the last time you told one of these people how much you appreciated them and what they did for you, and how it helped you in your life? Writing a letter of gratitude and delivering it—what positive psychologists refer to as a “gratitude letter” and “gratitude visit”—can bring positive feelings to the people you appreciate, and even more positive feelings to you! It’s a big gesture that brings even bigger benefits.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

I’ve had a gratitude habit for over ten years now, but the pandemic has raised my gratitude bar. If you don’t already practice daily gratitude I’m going to show you how easy it is to incorporate into your life and how beneficial it is, too.

For most of us, keeping our spirits up and positive during this pandemic has been a tremendous challenge. But now, as we begin to turn the corner on Covid-19, I think about the unexpected gifts this time has brought. For me and many I speak to, it’s gratitude—for all we still have despite what has been taken away.

Why Develop the Gratitude Habit

Being grateful not only makes us feel more positive and blessed, it actually changes our brain for the better. “Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months” says Harvard researcher Shawn Achor. In fact he says, this practice can actually train our brains to be happier, and who doesn’t want a happier brain! (Watch his TED talk The Happy Secret to Better Work, he’s very funny and inspiring.)

The following are some simple suggestions for ways you can develop the gratitude habit:

Habit #1: Keep a Gratitude Journal

Achor recommends you find three new things you’re grateful for each day. Searching for new specific reasons to be grateful keeps our brain on the alert for the positive, and actually leaves an imprint on our brain’s neural structure. You may want to express your gratitude in a gratitude notebook to reread when you need an uplift. My friend Jamie, takes it a step further. She writes why she’s grateful for things or people to more fully internalize the feeling and good fortune she derives.

Here’s some reasons to be grateful to get you started: your health and physical abilities; beauty in nature; people who bring you joy and comfort, material objects that make life easier, opportunities, and…

Habit #2: Find Your Best Time

If writing is too much effort, here’s a simpler way that works for me. When I rest my head on my pillow I go through my day and reflect on at least five moments I’m grateful for. Things like watching birds happily gather at my feeders, encouraging words from a dear friend, seeing my son happy in love, and the wholesome food I ate for breakfast. I thank God or the Universal Force for my multitude of blessings and my heart is happy as I drift off to sleep.

If night time doesn’t work for you, start your day on a positive note with gratitude reflections. Research says bookending your day morning or night helps you make it a habit.

Habit #3: Create a Family Gratitude Jar

Another idea is to create a gratitude jar. Label it creatively, keep a stack of colorful slips of paper nearby, and it can even become a family focus. Then from time to time over dinner have everyone pull a strip from the jar to read aloud as a gratitude pick-me-up. It’s a beautiful way to spread the good right where you want it to start.

Habit #4: Express Appreciation

What would our lives be without the people who care for us? How often do we take the time to let others know how much their acts of kindness, big or small, mean to us? And how often do we let another know how they’ve positively impacted our life?

In my book, The Affirming Way of Life: See the Good, Speak the Good, Spread the Good, I devote a chapter to expressing appreciation, because it makes such a difference in the closeness and joy we share in our relationships. Why not take a “grateful pause” to reflect on the kindnesses others show you. Then call, text, email or send a card to let the people in your life know how much they mean to you. A good way to start is to express your appreciation to at least one person a day. You’ll see it will be a gift for both you and the recipient!

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to begin or expand your own gratitude habit. It’s the easiest practice to develop, with none of the ups and downs of dieting or exercise. People often comment on how positive I am, but I wasn’t always. I am certain it’s my gratitude habits that have rewired my brain to be more positive. Hoping this helps you unleash your positive possibilities!

Gail Siggelakis is a Robbinsville resident. Her column “Unleash Your Positive Possibilities” will be appearing on the first Monday every month to give readers some positive thoughts and concepts to consider in their own life.

Happiness is different for different people. For a few people, it might be to be at peace while for a few it might be equal to hanging out with friends and family.

No matter what is the version of your happiness certain habits decide whether you shall actually feel happy in the moments which you consider to be your happy moments.

Here are some of the habits that you can inculcate in your life to be happier.

Smile often

You generally smile when you feel happy. However, this is actually a two-way street where you can feel happy even by just smiling.

Smiling releases dopamine and that makes you happier. However, it surely does not mean that you need to carry a smile even when you don’t want to. You can practice this whenever you feel low and can release your stress.

Exercise

Exercising just not makes your body fit but is great even for your mind and mood. It helps to reduce anxiety and the feeling of stress.

This does not allow depression to come in and even helps to boost your happiness and self-esteem. Even a small amount of exercise and any sort of physical activity can make a great difference.

Get a lot of sleep

Adequate sleep is mandatory for great health, better brain function and for great emotional well-being.

When you sleep well, it makes you feel good and naturally increases your happiness. Sometimes you tend to get irritated and angry at the slightest of things because of the lack of adequate sleep.

Thus, eight hours of healthy sleep is another reason for happiness and is a habit that everyone should develop.

Eat food with the mood in mind

We all know the effects of good food on our physical health. However, good food even impacts our state of mind.

The serotonin released by carbohydrates is the feel-good hormone. The little number of carbs in your diet and that will just not keep your stomach full but shall also keep your heart full of happiness. High protein food such as meat, legumes and dairy release dopamine that boost focus as well as energy.

If you love oily food a lot then that might be one of the reasons you feel low throughout the day. Even skipping meals can make you feel low and angry. Thus, building the habit of a balanced diet is extremely important.

Practice gratitude

Simply practising gratitude can give a great boost to your mood among the other amazing benefits.

Practising gratitude has an impact on the level of happiness and hope. Practising gratitude early in the morning as you wake up can bring in pleasant emotions which shall bring pleasant memories in life. Thus, practice the habit of gratitude to lead a more meaningful and beautiful life.

Compliment more often

Studies depict that small acts of kindness can give you more satisfaction in life. And this satisfaction plays a great role in feeling happy and blessed.

Giving a sincere compliment is one of the best and easiest ways to brighten the day for both the people receiving and giving the compliment. It just not makes the person receiving the compliment happy but also creates happiness for the person giving it.

Deep breathing

Another amazing habit that you can develop to feel happy is the practice of deep breathing.

Research shows that breathing deeply can be a great stress buster and thus when you have no stress you feel happy. Breathing heavily must be practised when you feel very angry and should be done until you calm yourself down.

Be grateful for the happy moments

An optimistic attitude towards life is one of the best things and one must be grateful for all the great things in life.

If you acknowledge the happy moments of life you let yourself relive those happy moments and that increases your level of happiness. Thus, one must always count their happy moments.

Journaling

Writing a journal is one of the great ways to analyse and organize millions of thoughts going on in our head.

You do not need to be a great writer to write these journals all you need to do is write your heart out on the sheet of paper and feel happy about the good memories and satisfied about the lessons you have learnt from the bad experiences.

Have a head-on approach towards stress

Some of the studies believe that all stress is not harmful. We can always have control over our attitude towards stress.

Everyone is going through some of the other so one must not feel that they are going through a lot of things. One must believe in their strength and must remember that they are stronger than what they think they are.

With the help of this habit, you do not waste time thinking about the stressed situation rather face it head-on and be prepared about the consequences.

Meet friends

Social gatherings can make us happier. reach out to your friends for small get-togethers or long phone call sessions. The meaningful relationship that you spend with one or two people is enough to make you happy.

Plan the week ahead

Try to plan your week ahead and make a basic list of the things which you intend to do. When you do not have to worry about time to get things done you feel less stressed and happier. Thus, this habit is also great for your peace and happiness.

Reduce screen time

Turn off all the electronics and take your earbuds away for at least one hour in the entire week. You shall be surprised to see the difference it makes. You should allow some quietness for your mind and let it free for a change.

This habit can really make a difference in your life and shall increase the amount of happiness in your life.

Go out in nature

This habit of connecting with your surroundings will help you lower your blood pressure and will take you out of the depressed state that you are in.

This habit can give extra benefit to your body and can even help you relax your mood and will uplift your state of mind. This habit can help to increase the amount of happiness in your life.

Meditate

Meditation helps you to reach a peaceful state of mind and can even increase the level of your focus and spirituality as well as movement.

All these three together can help you relax your body and mind and will also increase the state of happiness in your life.

You’ve probably heard that there is power in gratitude. Today there’s a lot of attention being paid to gratitude and for a good reason. Simply practicing gratitude can make you a happier person.

But how does gratitude increase the level of happiness you feel? Scientists have asked the same question, and they’ve come up with some interesting ways this works.

How Gratitude Makes You Happier

Several different studies have looked into the concept that practicing and having gratitude in your life can make you happier.

One study from Kent University looks specifically at letters of gratitude as they relate to well-being. The study begins by explaining that 40% of happiness comes from intentional activities, 50% is genetic, and 10% is a circumstance.

The belief is that by turning to the area where you have some influence, intentional activities, you can boost happiness. They found that the act of writing three letters of gratitude improved and sustained feelings of well-being. They suggested that more letter writing could have an even greater gain.

Another assessment published in the Journal of Positive Psychology looked at gratitude, hope, and happiness. This assessment was based on two studies, one where trait gratitude was examined in relation to hope and happiness, the other asked subjects to write about future hopes and to remember past hopes that were fulfilled, and there was also a control group. They discovered that grateful remembering prompted significant increases in hope and happiness.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

A well-known study on gratitude by Emmons and McCullough asked participants to a) keep a daily journal of things they were grateful for, b) write about things that annoyed them, and c) track reasons why they were better off than others.

The results were that subjects expressing gratitude showed improvements in optimism, improvements in exercise, and a reduction in physical ailments. This goes above and beyond happiness, to show that gratitude can affect other areas of your life and, logically, if those areas improve, they will also boost your happiness.

And these are just a few studies, there are many more that suggest the benefits of gratitude are even more far-reaching. But how can this be?

Your Brain on Gratitude

Looking at brain activity when someone is expressing or feeling gratitude gives us greater insight into how powerful gratitude can be. This is further detailed by the National Institute of Health in a study where they examined blood flow in the brain during gratitude. It appears that the greater the level of gratitude, the higher the activity in the hypothalamus.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

The hypothalamus portion of your brain controls a lot of essential functions like eating, drinking, and sleeping, but it also plays a significant role in your metabolism and stress. This works hand-in-hand with studies that found gratitude improved sleep and exercise and resulted in less illness and pain.

Examination of the brain during gratitude also found that the regions of the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine (the feel-good chemical) are activated. This means your brain is rewarding your gratitude with good feelings that make you want to do it again.

How to Be More Grateful

Now that you can see just some of the science behind how gratitude can make you happier, it’s time to put that into practice in your own life. So, what are the best ways to practice gratitude? The following are proven methods to help you start being more grateful.

Gratitude Writing

Journaling, letter writing–whatever form your written gratitude takes is fine, as long as you write it down. The first study mentioned above discovered that simply having gratitude thoughts was not as effective as writing them. They found that spending 10-15 minutes writing about gratitude in your life made a significant difference after only three sessions–so, why not get started!

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

Verbalize Gratitude to Others

Make a point of telling someone something you’re grateful for on a daily basis. It’s easy if you live with others to start noticing the things they do that you appreciate. It could be something as simple as picking up their towel after a shower.

If you don’t live with others, it can be challenging at first to feel comfortable telling your co-worker, or even a stranger, that you’re grateful for the things they do, but it’ll get easier over time.

Tell Yourself You’re Grateful

Let’s not entirely focus on external gratitude, if we do, we’re missing a huge component of your life–you! Try telling yourself in the mirror the things you’re grateful for about you.

Mirror talks are a great way to show gratitude, boost self-esteem, show self-compassion, and give yourself a pep talk that will help get you through the day.

There’s a cyclical effect in your brain when you begin to actively practice gratitude. Your brain releases dopamine, and it feels good, which tells your brain to do that thing again. Interestingly, your brain’s attention is limited. It only has so much bandwidth to focus, and it’s hard for your brain to focus on both good and bad things at the same time.

So, conditioning yourself to be grateful begins the positive cycle. While it may take effort, it will become second nature, and you’ll begin to experience more spontaneous gratitude.

How to develop the habit of gratitude to be happier

If you like this article and are interested in reading more like it on your path to health-lightenment, follow Live Conscious on Facebook @weliveconscious and Instagram @weliveconscious.

Waking Up To Wellness

Gratitude is a powerful thing. It’s so much more than writing a thank you note for a gift or throwing a “thank you” into the wind when someone holds a door open. Feeling true gratitude can make you feel happier in your day-to-day life, and there’s science to back that up.

When you’re grateful, the hypothalamus area of your brain gets more nourishing blood flow, making it more active. This has a ripple effect that can lead to greater life satisfaction, better sleep, positive eating, better exercise habits, and happiness. The great news is it’s “contagious,” in that your brain likes the way this feels and wants to do it again, making this is a good and easy habit to develop.

There is evidence that spontaneous gratitude is more meaningful than forced gratitude, but luckily, once you begin practicing gratitude, it will come naturally and spontaneously. And that’s something to be grateful for!

As a new year begins, it’s common to make resolutions. When making resolutions, many of us try to focus on changing behaviors so that our level of happiness increases. From deciding to spend more time with family, to losing weight, we all want to improve.

However, if you want to be happier this year, one little change can go a long way. Instead of being self-absorbed, consider looking outside yourself and expressing gratitude.

Gratitude can Make You Happy

It seems a little strange to think that something like being thankful can lead to greater happiness. However, gratitude can make you happy. Gratitude does a few things to help you improve your outlook:

  • Focuses your thoughts on what you already have and enjoy
  • Breeds contentment in your life
  • Encourages you to look at the positive side of things
  • Allows you to focus on something and someone beyond yourself, taking the focus off you and your problems

Studies show that grateful people are happier than those who don’t practice gratitude in their lives. There is a lot to be said about developing a positive attitude, especially since positivity contributes to your happiness, reduces stress, and can help you ward off some diseases.

Developing Gratitude

It sounds simple, but developing gratitude does take some work. Gratitude is part of an overall lifestyle. For many, especially if habits of bitterness have been ingrained, it can take real effort to turn things around and become grateful. However, if you are serious about living a happier life, gratitude is a great place to start. Here are some ideas for encouraging gratitude to take root in your life:

  • Smile
  • Say thank you
  • Write thank you notes
  • Keep a gratitude journal (list a minimum of 5 things you are grateful for each day)
  • Look for the bright side of things, even if the situation looks bad (a job loss may really be an opportunity to start your own business)
  • Help someone else
  • Consider whether you are suffering from “first world problems” and look for a little perspective

Some of the items on the above list seem pretty simple — and they are! When some does something for you, smile and say thank you. Take a few minutes to write a thank you note for gifts you receive. This is important because it’s a great way to get started and develop a habit of gratitude. If you smile as you say thank you, and work on your sincerity, you will soon feel better inside and out!

You can boost your efforts by trying to replace negative thoughts with something you are grateful for. When you begin to dwell on the unhappy thoughts you have, make an effort to replace that thought with something positive. As a negative thought forms, stop, and look around and identify something you are grateful for.

It can take some time get in the habit of feeling grateful on a regular basis. However, if you are persistent in your efforts, and remember to focus on what you are happy about in your life, and remember to thank others for the great things they do for you, it will be easier to enjoy life, and live happier.

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By Janet Miller

In the famous words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

It can be easy to get swept away in the fast lane and forget to stop and show your appreciation for what you do have. A life well lived is one of gratitude and thankfulness. To help you on your gratitude journey, here are 8 ways to have more gratitude in your daily life.

1. Don’t be picky: appreciate everything

Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.

Even if it is as simple as appreciating the clear weather or how quickly your mailman delivered your mail last Friday, don’t leave anything out when practicing your gratitude.

2. Find gratitude in your challenges

Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.

Photo by Marcos Vasconcelos

Western Buddhist master Jack Kornfield remembers an exercise he did with a man who was caring for his grandson while his son and daughter-in-law battled a drug addiction. Despite all that he had been through, the man was still able to find gratitude for the amount of compassion he had learned to show and the impact he was able to have on other people.

Dig a little deeper into some of your own past experiences and try to figure out how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.

3. Practice mindfulness

Sit down daily and think through five to ten things you are grateful for. The trick is that you need to picture it in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude in your body. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful, and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.

It only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice for people to start showing changed brain patterns that lead to greater empathy and happiness.

Your brain is a powerful tool, and training it towards gratitude is all part of ensuring that the gratitude comes more easily as you practice, so what are you waiting for?

4. Keep a gratitude journal

After your mindfulness session, write down your positive thoughts! Keeping a journal of all of the things you are thankful for can help you keep track of and refer back to the positives in your life.

Write down your positive thoughts to further focus your attention on the subject. While you are putting the pen to paper, you have no choice but to consciously think about the words you are writing without other distracting, ungrateful thoughts.

You can journal every day after your gratitude practice, or you can come back to the journal on a regular schedule weekly or monthly.

5. Volunteer

For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local community. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude.

University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman, supports this theory with his research in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. After testing all kinds of variables that help improve our well-being, he found that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.

In other words: helping others helps you!

6. Express yourself

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply keep your gratitude to yourself. You can increase your feelings of gratitude by expressing that same gratitude to the people you care about.

Soul Pancake, a group that works to discover the “science of happiness,” ran an experiment where they encouraged people to write a letter to a person they were grateful for. By itself, this exercise increased their levels of happiness from 2 to 4%. However, when the same people made a phone call to the person they were thankful for to express their gratitude directly, happiness levels jumped from 4% to 19%.

Not only does expressing your gratitude for someone make their day a little brighter, but it can do wonders for increasing your own levels of gratitude and happiness in the long run

7. Spend time with loved ones

If you’re struggling with feeling the gratitude in the moment, go spend time with your friends and family. Of course it will help you grow closer to them and strengthen your relationship, but it will also give you a chance to practice your acts of gratitude on people that you care about.

Start small if they’re having trouble finding ways to support your friends and family. For instance, why don’t you make sure you’re listening intently the next time someone shares a story with you instead of waiting for your own chance to speak? Or start a conversation with a difficult member of the family by complimenting their new shoes or hair-cut.

8. Improve your happiness in other areas of your life

Being grateful can make you happy, but being happy can also make you grateful. There are plenty of other ways to get your mood up, including exercising or participating in a hobby you enjoy.

Once you are feeling the endorphins flow, showing gratitude will become even easier and you’ll start to be able to make list after list of all of the things in your life you’re thankful for.

Janet Miller is a serial entrepreneur, habit scientist and co-founder of Jen Reviews. She writes extensively and has been featured on Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post and Tiny Buddha.

gratitude, happiness, journaling

Learning how to start a gratitude journal can help you lower blood pressure, protect you from illness, and boost your happiness and well-being.

Practicing gratitude can also improve your relationships at home, and at work, by making you more helpful, generous and cooperative.

These are just a few of the benefits of gratitude journaling discovered in clinical studies conducted by researchers.

These studies support the divine wisdom in the Bible record. In the Bible we’re told that it’s God’s will for us to give thanks–all the time!

Gratitude has tremendous power to change you and me in positive ways. It’s an effective remedy for envy, resentment, greed and bitterness.

Unleashing the Power of Gratitude

There are times in my life when gratitude was absent. I was just pushing my way through each day to get to the end so I could escape from my stress in sleep.

But stress finds you in your sleep.

I dreaded going to work each day. My marriage was on the rocks. I just wanted to sit on my couch, watch TV, and not think.

Gratitude would have been an effective antidote for my unhappiness.

It would have helped me cope with stress.

It would have improved my marriage.

It would have given me a more positive outlook on my job.

I could have used a gratitude journal. But it was years later that I began to understand the power of gratitude.

How to Start a Gratitude Journal

I’m going to show you 5 easy steps I’ve learned, that you can take today to start this simple habit of gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling puts the power of gratitude at your fingertips so you can boost your happiness, and enrich your life, your relationships, and your work.

  1. Keep a record – Decide where you’re going to write the things you’re grateful for. I use a pocket-size Moleskine Smart Notebook. These little journals are built to last, and come with a bonus for Evernote users–3 months of Evernote Premium. If writing isn’t your thing, use your smartphone or tablet’s speech recognition feature to transcribe your record in an online journal like Day One. The point here is to have a written record of your blessings to look back on, particularly in times of discouragement, and even to pass on to future generations.
  2. Record at least 3 blessings every other day – I keep my journal on the desk where I have my morning devotions. Put it where you’ll remember to use it, or set a reminder on your smartphone or tablet. Make it easy to develop a new habit. Researchers have found that journaling your gratitude a few days a week is more effective than doing it daily–it prevents gratitude fatigue.
  3. Record the specifics – Record the details of what you’re grateful for. This has greater power than using generalizations. For example, “I’m grateful for the sunshine,” is too general. Don’t do this. Instead, go for something like this: “I’m grateful for the sunshine today, because it’s been cold and cloudy for several days. The sunshine made it enjoyable to be outside.”
  4. Embrace on the unexpected – The blessings that have the greatest power to produce the benefits of gratitude are the blessings we don’t expect–the gifts. Each time you record in your gratitude journal, include at least one blessing that surprised you. What good came your way that wasn’t expected? What did you dread that didn’t happen?
  5. Expect an end – As you reflect on each blessing, learn to not take these for granted. Learn to recognize that these may not last. While today may be sunny, acknowledge that tomorrow, or next week may be cloudy again. While you may have good health today, know that it may not always be that way. This isn’t to inspire a grim or pessimistic outlook on life. What it does is inspire greater appreciation for each blessing while you have it. It inspires more happiness in the moment.

Don’t take your blessings for granted–take them as granted.

Take the First Step

When we publicly proclaim our intentions, we have a much greater chance of following through. Will you get started on your gratitude habit now?

Share your commitment to start a gratitude journal with a comment below, and share one thing you’re grateful for today.