It may sound trite, but science has shown that being grateful for what you have is one good way to increase your happiness. In one study conducted in 2003, a group of student volunteers who wrote daily about 5 things they were grateful for increased their happiness scores more than those who wrote daily about “hassles” or neutral “events.” The “gratitude” group felt better about their lives, were more optimistic, had fewer health complaints, and even exercised more than the other groups!
I have found that in keeping a “gratitude journal”, it’s most helpful to write more than a few words. Writing details tends to help you feel even better. For example, instead of writing “I am grateful for my children,” you might write “I am grateful for the way my little son looks so happy to see me when I pick him up at day care.” Instead of “I’m grateful for the good weather,” you could write “I’m grateful for the way the sun makes all the colors seem brighter today.” If it’s hard to think of things to be grateful for, remember the very small things: “I am grateful that I can breathe.” It could be otherwise…
Here are some more exercises which can help increase your gratitude – and your happiness:
Make a “gratitude visit.” Visit, write, or call someone who has helped you and express your appreciation for what they have done. This strategy is especially helpful in strengthening your social support system, which is also a good way to prevent depression and increase happiness.
Write daily 3 good things that happened to you that day, and also write down why you think they happened. For example, “My cable was turned back on, because I was finally able to save enough money to pay the bill.”
Write about something funny that happens every day.
Write a list of kindnesses – kind things you did for someone else, or kindnesses you received from others.
If you think you have little to be grateful for, remember the small things. For a bit of nostalgia (if you’re old enough!) and a lift in your spirits, check out this video of Ethel Merman singing the Broadway tune, “The Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night!”