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This Daily Habit Will Make You 25 Percent Happier

If you only have time for one self-improvement habit, choose this one.

From diet dos to relationship don'ts, you're likely bombarded with the latest self-improvement tips every day. Magazine articles, news stories, and websites provide endless suggestions for improving your mental, spiritual and physical health.

Quite often, the latest self-improvement tips are conflicting. Eat whole grains. Don't eat carbs. Get at least eight hours of sleep. Sleep in two separate shifts. Exercise at least an hour each day. Don't put too much stress on your joints.

If the confusing messages weren't discouraging enough, most people don't have a lot of time to devote to self-improvement. Family commitments, work obligations, and a little leisure activity, leave little time to work on yourself.

How to Work Smarter, Not Harder

The good news is, you don't need to devote countless hours each day bettering yourself. Instead, you can work smarter, not harder, by engaging in the activities that pack the most powerful punch.

If you only have 15 minutes per day--and everyone can find 15 minutes--practice gratitude.

Although it sounds incredibly simple, don't underestimate the power of gratitude. Gratitude provides the following benefits:

  • Increased resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the attacks on September 11. Other studies have found that gratitude helps reduce the rates of PTSD following traumatic events.
  • Bolstered self-esteem. A 2014 study discovered that grateful people feel better about themselves. Gratitude reduces social comparisons, which tends to be at the root of most self-esteem issues.
  • Enhanced empathy. A 2012 study found that grateful people were more empathetic and less likely to become aggressive.
  • Improved physical health. A 2013 study found that grateful people report better physical health. Grateful people are also more likely to exercise and attend regular check-ups, which contributes to a longer lifespan.
  • Enriched social life. A 2015 study found that showing appreciation increases the chances that you'll make new friends. Additionally, gratitude will help you develop and maintain relationships.
  • Improved sleep. A 2011 study found that people who spend 15 minutes writing down grateful sentiments at bedtime sleep longer and better.
  • Increased happiness. A 2003 study discovered grateful people tend to be 25% happier than other people.

How to Express Gratitude

Writing in a gratitude journal can be the easiest ways to make gratitude a daily habit. Simply write down a positive memory each day or acknowledge a couple of things in your life that you feel thankful for.

Expressing gratitude to other people can also be effective. Call one person each evening just to express your gratitude. Or, send a thank-you note or email to share your sentiments.

You can also create gratitude rituals. Whether you go around the dinner table identifying three reasons you feel grateful, or you tell your partner why you're thankful each night before bed, expressing your gratitude out loud can be very powerful.

Whatever you choose to do, make gratitude a daily habit. It's simple, quick, and doesn't cost anything. But the benefits can change your life.

Want to learn how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.

Interested in learning how to build your mental muscle? Sign up for my online course Mental Strength: Mastering the 3 Core Factors.

Watch my TEDx talk The Secret to Becoming Mentally Strong.

This article first appeared on Inc.

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