Be grateful, practise gratitude, count your blessings, write down 3 things you are grateful for…

Advice to be more grateful is everywhere, and it is sound advice. A solid body of psychological research has shown that gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude also helps people experience more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, build resilience and strengthen relationships.

Gratitude comes more easily for some of us than others, but like any life skill we can get better at it with deliberate practice. When gratitude becomes more familiar to us, it helps us to notice and appreciate what is good and the joys that are already present in our lives as an antidote to the “always strive for more” messages in our Western culture.

Weaving gratitude into an already full life, particularly at times when life is hard, can be a challenge however, and feel like just one more thing to do. We’ve pulled together some of the best tips we have discovered for making the process a little easier – yet just as effective at building resilience. See which ones appeal to you and try them out. Don’t be put off if your attempts feel artificial or contrived at first, that’s very natural and will ease over time.

  • Keep each note of gratitude short and snappy – this is advice from neuroscientist Dr Alex Korb who wrote the book The Upward Spiral and notes that sometimes writing at length can reduce the intensity of the positive memory.
  • Short and snappy can also be useful if you like to carry around a gratitude notebook, or keep notes on your phone to look back on later, or text someone with a thank-you to let them know you are grateful for them.
  • Use any medium you like to record your moments of gratitude – keep a photo diary if photos help to create a grateful feeling, draw or paint what you are grateful for, save songs that elicit gratitude in you, or share your experiences of gratitude with others if this helps to enhance them for you.
  • Try “micro-gratitude” – appreciation for the little things – this helps if your gratitude lists can start to feel repetitive or lose their emotional power. Journalist Catherine Gray suggests noticing and savouring the small moments in our day – a particularly welcome cup of tea, or the squeeze of a hug from a friend, perhaps the delight of sunshine on your face after a rainy morning, or hearing a news item that makes us smile. Micro can be helpful also when we are managing hard times and need to keep building resilience.
  • Experiment with timing – do you find it easier or more satisfying to recall moments of gratitude at the end of your day, or to reflect each morning before your schedule becomes hectic?Perhaps tracking gratitude through the day – noticing those micro moments as they arise – has more impact?  Mix it up and see which method works best for you, or you may find variety is best, a different approach on different days.

For more ideas to boost your gratitude, watch this TED talk: