Research strongly suggests that gratitude, or a thankful appreciation of aspects of your life, can result in positive changes to your brain, energy level, exercise patterns, enthusiasm, and mood. Gratitude is also strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.
Here are a few ways to grow your gratitude in 10 minutes or less.
Write a Note to Someone Who Has Never Been Properly Thanked for His or Her Kindness
Dr. Martin Seligman found that people who were asked to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness immediately showed a huge increase in their own happiness scores. Whether you write a long note to a loved one or a simple thank you card to the crossing guard or bus driver at your child’s school, your letter will have a significant impact on both the receiver and you.
Gratitude Apps or Sites
This simple app Attitudes of Gratitude encourages you to reflect on and record the things you are grateful for each day. Another app called Happify has quizzes, games, and exercises to notice more of the positives in your life. It is based on research about the neuroplasticity of the brain (certain behaviors, practices, or even thoughts can change the sizes of certain sections of the brain).
A (Free) Guided Gratitude Meditation
The benefits of meditation, including improved emotional well-being and physical health, are far-reaching and well-documented. There are a number of free gratitude meditations available online, such as this one, (which only takes 15 minutes).
Reminders for gratitude can help you orient, again and again, toward the blessings in your life. Some sample trigger-reminders are: a post it note with the word “thankful” on your fridge, your car dashboard, your cubicle, or your pillow, a daily phone alarm going off at 12 noon to remind you to be thankful; or a framed quote about gratitude on your wall or desk.
The G.L.A.D. Technique, described by Donald Altman in his book The Mindfulness Toolbox, stands for:
G – one gratitude that you’re thankful for today (having food and water, a good relationship, etc.,
L – one new thing you learned today (about yourself or another person, a fact, or a life lesson),
D – one thing of delight that touched you today (e.g. hearing a woodpecker, having a good laugh).
Imagine you’re a metal detector, but find positives instead of coins. In the car, bring your awareness to the drivers that are driving sanely and gently. At a party, spot the most positive connections or conversations. At work, focus on the aspects of your job that you like doing the best. During a child’s bedtime routine, think about the parts you really enjoy. During dinner, reflect on the most delicious bites of food you eat. Notice sensory details, (such as the warmth of your coffee mug or your child’s hug) and simple pleasures (such as having a bright window in your office or cranking your favorite music).
Volunteer with people who have less support or resources than you do. Beyond the research-supported benefits of an increased sense of community and better physical health, the experience may remind you to be grateful for what you’ve got.
Copyright Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents (2017), is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples in Chicago's western suburbs www.erinleyba.com. Sign up for free articles on www.thejoyfix.com or get updates on tools to build personal and family joy on Facebook or Twitter.