What one thing could increase happiness…

What one thing could: make you feel better, strengthen your immune system, improve relationships and bring you greater happiness and a sense of optimism? What could have such a positive impact on your physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being (for those who are counting, that’s ALL four areas of wellness)?

Decades of research shows what we’ve heard for years: practicing gratitude.

Photo by Gabrielle Cole on Unsplash
Photo by Gabrielle Cole on Unsplash

It’s one thing to hurriedly list off a handful of things when we read an article or listen to a podcast on gratitude. It’s an entirely different thing to consciously practice it.

Interestingly, the research also shows that when you vary your practice it has a greater positive impact on your happiness. That is, if daily you list five things for which you’re grateful, it can become rote and as you become more used to it, you’re less phased by it.

Here are a few ideas to keep it meaningful so that it powerfully affects your life (and others):

1. Mix it up: Write your gratitude list less frequently, say weekly or twice a week. Vary your gratitude emphasis between relationships, work, health, etc.
2. Make it real for someone else: Express gratitude to another person. Be specific with them. Research shows the impact on you is even greater when you speak with the other person rather than just write a letter or email.
3. Find the good amidst the grief: This isn’t about being Polly Anna or pretending a situation is fine when it isn’t. During painful times it helps to balance out the negative with gratitude. It’s too easy to swirl downward. Let gratitude halt the spiral. As Kristin Armstrong said, “When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.”

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” That’s really the crux of it, for gratitude to inform how we live, how we treat others and – yes – how we treat ourselves.

If you already have a mindful gratitude practice, awesome!

If yours is more random (confession: mine’s a bit haphazard!), as we approach World Gratitude Day on September 21st, I challenge you to take this opportunity to cultivate a gratitude practice to encourage greater satisfaction and well-being.

I’m in! Are you?

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