What are you grateful for?

For more than two decades research on happiness has found an essential element to happiness is having gratitude. Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful and showing appreciation for what is in our lives and is essential to a life of happiness and well-being.

When we pause and recognise the wonderful things in our life, we feel happier. Appreciation keeps us focused on what is good in our life and opens us for more good to flow into our life.

The science behind hundreds of studies has shown that when we practice gratitude our lives are much better, positive emotions are increased, there is a decreased risk in depression, our relationship satisfaction is heightened, and we have increased resilience dealing with stressful life events.

For some of us gratitude does not come naturally, the weight of negativity in our lives – resentment, disappointment and fear can take up more of our attention than the positives however, with practice we can make a shift in the emotional tone of our life, achieve a greater level of happiness and create more space for joy and connection with others.

There are many ways to develop gratitude and here are our

Top 4 great gratitude strategies:

1. Say “thank you”

Gratitude can be particularly powerful when expressed to others. Small gestures of appreciation, such as thank you notes make a difference, and some things deserve more than a fleeting “thanks!”

Is there is someone in your life whom you feel you’ve never properly expressed your gratitude?   Writing a thoughtful gratitude letter is a wonderful way to increase your feelings of gratitude and powerful in making someone feel appreciated and valued.

2. Savor

Have you ever noticed that first bite of cake is usually the best?   Hedonic adaptation is the tendency to adapt to pleasurable things and over time appreciate them less and less.  Temporarily giving up pleasurable activities and then coming back to them later can interrupt this adaptive process so the next time your experience is with greater anticipation and excitement.

Temporarily giving up certain pleasures enables us to recognise pleasures that we may be taking for granted allows us the value in savoring these more.  We can also savour more by being in the present and with our surroundings.  In this modern age of technology, it’s common to walk down the street with our eyes glued to screens, unaware of our surroundings and sometimes even without a phone or device in hand, we can simply be in a rush, distracted and miss opportunities to take in our world and the elements that make us feel good—beautiful, awe-inspiring nature and acts of kindness and connections between people.

3. Mental subtraction

The age old saying “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” rings so true.  Just imagining something is gone is often enough to make you appreciate what you’ve got.

Engaging in the practice of Mental subtraction of positive events involves considering the many ways in which important, positive events in your life—such as a job opportunity or educational achievement—could have never taken place, and then reflecting on what your life would be like without them.  Mental subtraction can counteract the tendency to take positive events for granted and see them as inevitable; instead, it helps us recognize how fortunate we are that things transpired as they did.

A series of studies in 2008 led by Minkyung Koo found that completing a 15-minute mental subtraction writing exercise led to increases in happiness and gratitude.

4. Three Good Things

Some days we can feel like everything is going wrong, however even on bad days, good things happen, too—we’re just less likely to notice them.

That’s where the Three Good Things practice comes in. Spending a few minutes at the end of each day acknowledging three good things that went well that day (big or small) is effective as it helps us remember and appreciate good things that happened, teaches us to notice and savor positive events, and remember them more vividly later on.  By reflecting on the sources of these good things, the idea is that we begin to see a broader ecosystem of goodness around us rather than assuming that the universe is conspiring against us.

Similar to Three Good Things is keeping a Gratitude Journal, which involves writing down up to five things for which you are grateful once a week and reflecting on what these things mean to you. For this practice, you can expand the scope of your gratitude beyond good things that happened that day and consider positive events from your past and even those coming up in the future. The Gratitude Journal is especially effective when you focus on specific people you’re grateful to have—or have had—in your life.

 

These top tips are highlights from a collection of strategies from the Greater Good Science Center website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), that features top research-based exercises for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience.  For more information you can visit their website at http://ggia.berkeley.edu

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