What if you could increase your happiness by 25%, reduce stress, fight depression, and sleep better without expensive equipment, rigorous exercise, or medication? Such a powerful life-changer may seem like fantasy, especially during times like these when our days are packed, pressure is high, and hope can be in short supply.
Yet, a growing number of studies are pointing to a simple, yet powerful habit that can generate significant, positive, and lasting life change. These studies are uncovering the power of gratitude.
Associated with optimism, gratitude is the practice of recognizing and appreciating what is positive and good in our lives. It means that we choose to be thankful for the life we have and those around us who make our lives richer and better. It is a choice to focus on experiences that have enriched us rather than regrets and losses.
Internally, choosing gratitude can change the way we think. Developing the habit of looking for experiences, feelings, and connections for which we can be grateful makes us feel better. When gratitude becomes a habit, we become more optimistic and see even more things in life for which to be grateful.
Externally, gratitude can shape our attitude and actions in ways that make us more interesting and attractive to be around. People respond more positively to us, thus creating a virtuous feedback loop that generates even more reasons to feel grateful.
Feeling and focusing on gratitude in times like these can be a challenge. Certainly, many aspects of life are challenging and could be more positive. We can choose to focus on aspects of life that are not the way we want them, or we can give our attention to elements of our lives that give us happiness, connect us with others, and give us hope.
The choice to experience gratitude is ours. Nothing to buy. No medicine to take. No equipment required. So, what can we do to make gratitude a bigger part of our lives and experience the benefits it promises? Here are eight actions you can take, starting today:
- Keep a journal of people, events, and situations for which you are grateful. On days when gratitude may be a more challenging feeling your list can be a helpful reminder.
- Be intentional in thanking people around you, even for small actions. Also, be specific about what they did that matters to you.
- Send texts, emails, or handwritten notes to express your appreciation for the assistance and support of people in your life.
- Tell people in your life about the importance of your relationship with them and how they enrich you.
- Make it a practice to “count your blessings.” While old advice, focusing on what has blessed our lives can be enriching.
- Reflect on people in your past who have had a positive influence or otherwise made a difference for you. Tell and thank them.
- Focus on the positive aspects of experiences and situations you encounter. Not only will you feel better, you are more likely to see opportunities rather than problems.
- Resolve to focus on what is valuable in your life rather than what you do not have.
In the coming weeks, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a traditional time for being grateful and giving thanks. Resolve to make gratitude a habit rather than just a holiday.