We all want to be happier and live more fulfilling lives. The question is: How? We pursue success, relationships, hobbies, etc. but what do you do when it still feels like something is missing?
The answer is in your thoughts.
A growing body of research has found that practicing grateful thinking is key to being happier, healthier and having better relationships.
Here are five simple steps to start practicing gratitude today.
#1 Remember How Far You’ve Come
While most advice you hear says that if you want to be happy you need to forget about the negative things in the past, researchers at the University of California, Davis found the opposite to be true. When you take time to remember the challenges you’ve overcome, it can heighten your feelings of gratitude in the present. The key is to focus on being grateful for the progress you’ve made instead of resenting the ways difficult times have held you back.
#2 Start a Gratitude Journal
I love The Five Minute Journal because it gives you questions that only take 5 minutes a day to answer and realize all of the wonderful things in your life. Keep it by your bedside to use first thing in the morning or before you go to sleep. Or, bring it with you to work and fill it out as a midday happiness boost.
#3 Being Thankful is Sexy
A study done by the University of Minnesota found that couples who frequently show gratitude toward each other have greater satisfaction in their relationships because it creates a feedback loop of trust and intimacy.
Think about it: wouldn’t you feel more loved if your partner told you on a regular basis why they’re grateful to be with you? Plus, the more you reflect on the amazing qualities your partner has, the happier you are to be with them.
#4 The Big G Share Effect
Reflecting on all the things you’re grateful for doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.
Studies have shown that sharing your positive experiences with others strengthens your relationship with them. This is because emotions are contagious, so when you’re happy it makes other people feel good too and those feelings then create a sense of togetherness that helps you connect on a deeper level.
Invite your friends to join you in practicing gratitude by sharing what you’re grateful for with each other.
#5 Have a Gratitude Totem
The hardest part about practicing gratitude is remembering to do it. This is why I use a helpful tool called a gratitude totem. This is something that triggers a moment of gratitude. It can be a person, a specific time, an object etc. and whenever you see it you take a moment to reflect on all the things you’re grateful for.
For example, there is an absurdly long red light near my house that I somehow always hit. Whenever I’m stopped at this light-sometimes even multiple times a day-I take that time to think of all the things I’m grateful for:
- I am so grateful for living in the most beautiful and amazing city–Portland, Oregon.
- I am so grateful for waking up healthy.
- I am so grateful for my incredible husband, Scott!
I want to know what you’re grateful for! Let me know @Vvanedwards. The first 10 people to tweet and follow me will receive a free copy of The Five Minute Journal.
This post is inspired by How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science, and Practical Wisdom by my friend and colleague, Jonathan Fields.
A little more about the book: “Seriously . . . another book that tells you how to live a good life? Don’t we have enough of those? You’d think so. Yet, more people than ever are walking through life disconnected, disengaged, dissatisfied, mired in regret, declining health, and a near maniacal state of gut-wrenching autopilot busyness. Whatever is out there isn’t getting through. We don’t know who to trust. We don’t know what’s real and what’s fantasy. We don’t know how and where to begin and we don’t want to wade through another minute of advice that gives us hope, then saps our time and leaves us empty. How to Live a Good Life is your antidote; a practical and provocative modern-day manual for the pursuit of a life well lived. No need for blind faith or surrender of intelligence; everything you’ll discover is immediately actionable and subject to validation through your own experience.”