Did you know that expressing gratitude can transform your happiness? I know it sounds crazy and that's exactly what I thought until I did some research and started my own gratitude practice around 18 Months ago when trying to improve my appreciation for life and its challenges. In fact It's become such an asset to my own mental well being and happiness that its one of the first recommendations I make to my clients facing life's usual challenges.
My goal was to be more productive, resilient, and generally happier which everyone wants right? If I'm right then stick with me and I will try and explain as simply as possible how expressing gratitude works to change the way we think and how to make it a part of your every day life.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is generally defined as “thankfulness” or a “feeling of happiness which comes from appreciation” but I think more so than this it is a mood or attitude towards life which you can harbour and nurture yourself with minimal effort with maximal effects on your happiness! (More on this below) This is why I love to recommend gratitude practice, because with just a few minutes a day you can make a marked difference to how your mind works. And its these type of small changes with big effects that are easier to implement for all of us in our everyday lives.
How does Gratitude work?
There has been a wide range of scientific studies conducted on regular gratitude practice on human health both physical and mental with many positive findings. These include:
A 25% increase in feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and optimism.
Improved sleep and motivation upon waking.
Better relationship with spouse.
Direct relationship between gratitude and depression with depressed individuals expressing on average 50% less gratitude than those without depression.
These findings prove that making time to focus on the good things both big and small in your life can make quite a dramatic difference to your overall mental and physical well being. The benefits don't stop here either, those who rely on an attitude filled with more thankful tendencies have been shown to have better immune systems.
Since starting my own gratitude practice which takes about 2-3 minutes a day I have really noticed a difference in my general positivity, compassion, and kindness. On top of this bad days don't seem that bad anymore because things seem a lot more in perspective. I attribute this to gratitude slowly changing the way we perceive our situations and what we focus on rather than on the negatives and stresses which are now a part of a fast paced, competitive, and often crazy world. By taking time to be thankful for the small stuff things never really ever seem so bad. To my mind if someone can find happiness in something as simple as a delicious meal or a friendly face then they are not going to rely on unreliable and rare moments of happiness such as pay rises, material items, or holidays which can only add to your overall happiness.
How to start your own gratitude practice?
Get yourself a gratitude journal.
There is a lot of science about the act of actually writing something down on pen and paper over simply thinking it when it comes to memory and lasting changes to the way you think. For this reason I seriously recommend a dedicated gratitude journal which could be a small notebook or even better a product like the “five minute journal” which is a dedicated product guiding you through your daily gratitude practice. The clever guys launching this product also designed an app for iphone and ipad which I have been using for over a year now and can confirm makes it even easier to keep consistent with your daily gratitude entries.
Spend 3-5 minutes writing in your journal before bed.
Each night before you go to sleep spend some dedicated time to focus on some things you are grateful for. I like to pick three things and list them in my journal allowing myself to truly feel thankful. These things DO NOT need to be huge successes! Show me someone who has huge triumphs every day and I will show you a liar. Sure if you get a promotion of work you will put it down but how about that phone call to your Mum? Or the feeling of getting in from a long day? Or a stress busting gym session? Find the happiness in the small stuff and over time you will notice the way you think change!
Being consistent with your gratitude journal entries is the only way you will notice the benefits so make it a part of your pre bedtime ritual every night!
There you go, probably my biggest mental well being life hack which improves the way you view your life and your attitude towards it. It has made a significant difference to mine and millions of other lives so don't write it off, write it down. And open yourself up to a whole new way of experiencing the world.