Evidence suggests that people who experience and practice gratitude are happier.  They sleep more soundly, have fewer medical problems, and report strong relationships with friends and family.

Hofstra University researchers expanded the research to show how gratitude brings many benefits to children and adolescents.  Grateful kids are overall more satisfied with their friends and family, set higher goals, get higher grades, are less materialistic, and report less physical ailments.

Here are some tips and reminders about practicing gratitude:

  • Think about all the wonderful things in your life, including the small pleasures.
  • It may feel strange or stilted at first, but don’t worry.  It’s about practice and repetition, to train your brain to make these positive connections.
  • Start a gratitude journal, make a list, or simply go over everything you are grateful for in your head.
  • Ritualize it by picking a time of day to practice gratitude, such as the few minutes right before you fall asleep or get out of bed in the morning.
  • Share with others that you are trying to be a more grateful person; enlist their support and encouragement when you are feeling ungrateful.
  • Verbally express gratitude out loud to yourself and to others, especially if what you are grateful for has to do with that person.
  • Acknowledge that there will be some days that you forget or don’t have the heart to practice gratitude.  Whenever possible, try anyway.

Already think you practice gratitude on a daily basis?  Up your game with the idea of gratitude through mental subtraction.  This sounds complex, but it’s quite simple.  In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Christopher Peterson writes about a 2009 study that shows that thinking about the absence about good things in our lives can be even more powerful.  Humans have a tendency to adapt to our surroundings, whatever they are, and take them for granted.  Rather than simply thinking about all the wonderful things in your life, imagine what your life would be without them.  Consider things you wouldn’t notice until it’s gone, like air conditioning or your health.

Becoming a more grateful person takes intentional behavior and conscious effort.  Retraining your brain to think positively takes sustained effort over time.

John Bradley Jackson
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