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5 Easy Ways to Boost Your Happiness and Relationships

The surprising benefits of gratitude.

Key points

  • Cultivate gratitude to nurture your happiness and boost your relationships.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal for as little as two or weeks can increase your well-being.
  • Gratitude notes, visits, and rituals are additional ways to boost your happiness and relationships.
Drazen/Adobe Stock
Source: Drazen/Adobe Stock

Co-authored with Joel Klepac, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Warm and caring relationships feel wonderful. Who doesn’t love being seen and appreciated? In fact, research shows your positive relationships are the key factor in determining how long and happy your life will be.

How do you nurture these prized relationships? Cultivating gratitude is one proven way, and it’s a learnable skill. It feels good, too!

Start nurturing your happiness and your relationships today with these easy practices:

1. Learn the “Attitudes of Gratitude”

M.J. Ryan’s short book is a great place to start. Each chapter in her Attitudes of Gratitude is just two or three pages, designed to be read one chapter each day. Step by step, these simple exercises will help you plant seeds of gratitude that will blossom into warm smiles and happy connections.

I love to recommend this book because it started my own gratitude journey many years ago. Ever so gently, it opened my awareness of what it means to see relationships, and life itself, through a lens of gratitude.

2. Journal for Gratitude

A gratitude journal is a proven way to “jump-start” your gratitude journey. And it’s easy: Just write down three things you’re feeling grateful for and the feelings they evoke. The writing part is key—it brings more benefits than just thinking about the good in your world.

Research shows that keeping a daily gratitude journal for as little as two or three weeks can increase your well-being. Using a gratitude journal has even been shown to boost well-being in individuals working in intense professions like health care.

Sharing positive emotions like gratitude, awe, and humor strengthens your relationships. Stronger relationships invite even more sharing, nurturing even stronger bonds. Before you know it, you’re on an upward spiral of positive connections.

3. Write Gratitude Notes and Letters

In our fast-paced and often frenetic world, a handwritten note really stands out. Think about the last time you received a personal card or note via “snail mail.” How did it feel to know someone took the time to write a personal note to you?

So, take a few minutes right now to write a note of gratitude. It doesn’t have to be long. A simple, “Thanks for caring—it really means so much to me” can have an outsized impact. Sure, you can text or email it, but just imagine their smile as they open and read a real note or card.

If it feels right, make it a longer letter. Maybe to a teacher or mentor, or someone who helped you through a tough time. Perhaps to a family member whom you admire. The possibilities are endless—and energizing.

4. Make Gratitude Visits

Sometimes it feels right to express your gratitude in person. Consider writing a note and reading it to them in person. Research shows this practice can boost your happiness and the recipient’s as well.

While this is perhaps the most vulnerable of these five practices, having a script makes it easier. If you’re nervous, know that’s normal. To increase your comfort level, consider reading it out loud to a friend before delivering it for real.

So, go ahead—write the letter. Make a visit and strengthen the bond. Likely, it will be a moment to remember—both for them and for you.

5. Cultivate Rituals of Gratitude

Is there a place in your life where you'd like to add some positive energy? A gratitude practice just might be the ticket. Many find it meaningful to express gratitude before rolling out of bed in the morning. Others find it's helpful and connecting to express it with meals or at the end of their day.

Why not become a “connoisseur of gratitude?” Notice its many forms, sizes, and shapes. Consider creating your own rituals, crafting them in ways that hold meaning for you.

Helping Your Gratitude Practice Stick

If you want your new gratitude practice to stick, an easy hack is to link it to something you already do, like your morning coffee or your daily commute. And for even more positive benefits, pick a time when you habitually do something you’d like to do less of, like scrolling on social media. Replace that activity with your favorite gratitude practice.

More positive plus less negative = even more positive! That’s a double boost of good news for you and your relationships.

Avoiding Potential Pitfalls

Knowing a few common derailers can help bring more ease and even stronger connections on your journey.

To start, it’s helpful to bring realistic expectations. Gratitude is not a cure-all for every challenge or setback. It’s not a shortcut for avoiding grief and disappointment. All lives have challenges—they’re a very real part of what it means to be human.

And cultivating gratitude is not about giving advice. Telling someone (or yourself) to “Just be grateful,” is not what it’s about. When pain is present, offering empathy is more helpful and usually better received.

Finally, know that the topic of gratitude is not a fit for everyone, and that’s OK. If it only boosts your inner world, that’s enough. Others will enjoy your increased happiness—and so will you.

Gratitude Awaits

When you attune to the good in your world and express thanks, you’re offering others—and yourself—a wonderful gift. Happily, it's a gift you can give over and over again. You can choose to bring gratitude to a world that needs it.

The only question left is this: Which practices will you pick on this exciting journey?


Stefan DR. The Impact of Gratitude Letters and Visits on Relationships, Happiness, Well-Being, and Meaning of Graduate Students. Journal of Positive School Psychology 2021;5:110–126.

Dickens LR. Using gratitude to promote positive change: A series of meta-analyses investigating the effectiveness of gratitude interventions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 2017;39:193–208.

Seligman ME, Steen TA, Park N, Peterson C. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. Am Psychol. 2005;60(5):410–421.

Ryan MJ. Attitudes of Gratitude. 2017.

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