Posted on December 7, 2015 by Debra Burdick
Do you ever wish you felt happier? Do you know how to create happiness in your life and to shift out of a down mood to a happier mood? What one thing could you do every day to increase your happiness?
Researchers asked study participants to take part in what they called a “gratitude visit” and discovered that expressing gratitude increases happiness. To carry out the gratitude visit participants were first asked to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had been particularly kind to them. Then, they read the letter out loud to the person either in-person, virtually, or as if they were actually there when that wasn’t possible. Before and after happiness scales showed a significant increase in happiness and lower scores on depression for a month following the exercise.
So if you want to feel happier, bring your attention to feelings of gratitude. You might do what the study participants did and write a letter to someone expressing your gratitude to them. If possible, read the letter out loud to them but if you can’t, just read it out loud to yourself as if they were listening.
Another easy and very effective way to get the benefits of gratitude is to simply spend two minutes every day thinking about things you are grateful for. Identify a time each day when you can quiet your mind and focus on feelings of gratitude for just 2 minutes. This might be at the beginning of the day such as before you get out of bed, while brushing your teeth, having breakfast, driving to work, or when you first arrive at work or school. Or you can do it at the end of the day. This might be on the way home from work, at dinner, while getting ready for bed, or before you fall asleep.
Spend two minutes thinking back over the past 24 hours. Think of things you can feel grateful for. Perhaps you might be grateful for your family, your health, your home, your food, your friends, your work. Now go a bit deeper and identify each component of these. Be very specific. For example, maybe your son who struggles with math got a good grade in math. Or maybe you had a really good night’s sleep. Or a refund came in the mail that you have been waiting for. Or your toddler said, “I love you, Mommy.” Or your husband brought home your favorite dessert. Or you made a new friend at school. Or you finished a project you have been working hard on. Or you had a wonderful new idea for your work or business. You get the idea.
Another way to practice gratitude is with a gratitude journal. Spend a few minutes each day thinking about the past 24 hours and identifying things your are grateful for. Then write them down in your journal. The act of writing it down can be very powerful and helpful. It can also feel good to read your journal periodically to remind yourself of the wonderful things you are grateful for in your life.
Practice every day until it becomes a habit. This usually takes 21 days.
This gratitude practice may gradually change your thinking patterns which will then shift your overall mood. You may notice more positive thoughts and less negative thinking. You may get a healthier perspective on things. You may realize that despite whatever might be going on that feels bad, there are also good things happening right now in the present moment in your life. You can choose to focus on the good things.
Try it. First, notice how your feel. Then practice gratitude as described above and notice how your feel afterward. Chances are good that you will discover you feel more content and happy despite whatever unpleasant things may be going on in your life at the moment. Let me know how this works for you in the comments section below this article.
I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.