Here are some ways to start practicing gratitude to improve your well-being:
The other night, lying in bed reviewing all this information, I reminded myself that when I took the aforementioned Survey of Character Strengths, gratitude was one of my strongest characteristics. So I put that strength to use and began to count the day’s blessings. I remembered that although the email technology drove me crazy that day, it also allowed me to connect by text message. How lucky I am to live in a time where communication is so easy. And although things weren’t off to a good start, my daughter has a job despite a difficult economy. Sure enough the next morning, her supervisor called with apologies for the delay and off to work she went. I remembered that when I felt at my wits end, my best friend readily met me for coffee, made me laugh and reminded me that although frustrating, life is good!
Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down 3-5 things from the day you feel grateful for. Simplicity is key. Your baby’s smile, a perfect sunset, the train arriving on time, or your best friend’s laughter. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.
Express your gratitude. Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite thank you, but the heartfelt emotions. Tell your friend how her support and sense of humor helps you get through tough times, and how much it means to you. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. Sure you’re frustrated by the bus being late, but thankfully you have an understanding boss. Service at the restaurant is poor, but you are lucky to afford an evening out surrounded by good friends.
Practice gratitude with your family and friends. Although you may not say grace before a meal, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day that they feel grateful for. When you hear a friend moaning and complaining, challenge him or her to find the hidden opportunity or silver lining to the situation.
For today, the warm breeze, my outdoor office, and the singing of the birds in the trees all fill my heart with gratitude and joy! What are you grateful for today?
Ben-Shahar, Tal. 2007. Happier. New York: McGraw Hill
Emmons, R.A., and McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84: 377-89.
Fredrickson, Barbara L. 2009 Positivity. New York: Crown Publishers
Lyubomirsky, Sonja. 2007. The How of Happiness. New York: Penguin Books
Seligman, Martin. 2002. Authentic Happiness. New York: Free Press