Tuesday, November 1, 2011

4 Ways to Express Gratitude Every Day

Learn how giving thanks can keep you feeling happy 

When newspaper headlines are screaming financial disaster and your nightly news station broadcasts war and devastation, it’s not hard to get swept up in the pessimistic world view that things are bad—and getting worse. Now, stop and think about whether or not that’s really true. If the world were so bad, would that person at the grocery store have let you cut in line when you were buying one item? How about the card your next door neighbor's child made you for Christmas? We often focus on all the problems we're having and forget about life’s small blessings.

That’s exactly the mentality Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of "The How of Happiness," is using her 5-year, $1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to explore. She has done vast research on the topic of long-term personal happiness and found that, among other things, expressing gratitude regularly contributes to it in a big way.

Here are four ideas on how to express gratitude every day.

Keep a gratitude journal

We often feel gratitude in the moment that kindness or generosity is bestowed upon us. The problem is that we soon forget about these moments and, during a dark time, we begin to feel they never come. A gratitude journal is where you can write down the things you are grateful for each day. And when the going gets tough, you have something to remind you there is hope.

Write a gratitude letter

Sometimes we need to take time to think about the people in our lives and how they contribute to our happiness and well-being. Instead of just tossing the idea around in our brain, write a friend a note telling her what you appreciate about her presence in your life. It’s not even important that you give her this letter; just the act of writing it out will solidify your feelings of gratitude for her.

Make a gratitude creation

Exercise your artistic side by creating something that represents what you are thankful for. A collage; a sketch; or, if you're a more adventurous artist, try a sculpture. By incorporating elements that represent things you are thankful for, you will have a visual reminder that life isn’t all that bad.

Make a gratitude appointment

Set a specific time to be grateful each day: when you wake up, when you go to sleep or before a meal. By setting this specific time, you will find yourself thinking all day of what you are grateful for, so at your “gratitude appointment,” you won’t be caught empty handed.

This post was written by E.C. LaMeaux for blog.gaiam.com.

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