Maybe it seems like common sense – and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that it’s true – but people who regularly acknowledge thanks for the good things, events and people in their lives are generally happier.
“Life can be hard, so when science tells us that grateful people cope better with transitions and stress, have more satisfying relationships, and generally enjoy life more, that’s an important endorsement,” says Margaret Howard, PhD, division director of the Center for Women’s Behavioral Health and director of the Day Hospital at Women & Infants Hospital. “Mindful gratitude plays a part in our treatment programs at Women & Infants, but it’s also something you can easily practice on your own every day.”
Here are some tips for developing an attitude of gratitude to guide your life:
Write it down. Dr. Howard recommends keeping a gratitude journal, writing thank-you notes or jotting down a short list of the things you are most thankful for several times a week. The act of writing something down helps lodge your thoughts in long-term memory, which makes a more permanent impression than saying them aloud or typing them.
Dwell on the good. Pen and paper not handy? Try closing your eyes, taking a calming breath, and focus on the good things in your life. According to Dr. Howard, the simple act of thinking about who and what you are grateful for can make a difference in your mental well-being.
Share your thoughts. Give sincere compliments to others and look them in the eye when you say “thank you.” These small gestures can have a boomerang effect, spreading ripples of thankfulness in your wake and adding to your gratitude.
Nix the negative. Make a commitment to remove negative thinking from your life. For one week, limit complaints, criticisms, and gossip. You’ll be amazed at how much energy you waste being negative and notice you have more resources to spend being thankful.
Live in the moment. If you’re always thinking about the past or worrying about the future, you won’t be able to notice the good things around you at this moment.
Bring it with you. Find a small rock or bead that feels good in your hand. Tuck it in your pocket each day. Every time you put your hand into your pocket and feel the rock, say thank you for something in your life.
Keep it simple. Sometimes, it may seem hard to feel grateful. That’s when you need to stop and get back to the basics. Look at the gorgeous foliage or a stunning sunset. Smell the fresh bread in the bakery. Savor a delicious meal.