Did you know that practicing gratitude is the most consistent, scientifically backed way to increase your happiness? In fact, there are 26 studies and counting that show the positive correlation between gratitude and happiness. As someone who has always been interested in the study of positive psychology and happiness, I started a regular gratitude practice a few years ago after a major breakup. Aside from working with self love and learning to talk back to my inner critic, starting a gratitude practice has been the single most positive, life-changing practice I have ever developed.
You see, a gratitude practice trains your brain to look for the good. As you train your mind to look for the bright parts of your day (no matter how bad), your brain actually starts to rewire itself to look for the positive events in your life. Now let’s get nerdy for a moment here. The pre-frontal cortex determines what is important to you based on how much attention you pay to it. The more you pay attention to negativity, the more your brain will strengthen neural passageways and synapses that support negative thought. The more attention you pay to positivity, the more your brain will actually start to re-allocate energy to developing the neural circuits that support that type of thought.
Yes, you can actually train your brain to be happier. It’s much like building muscle at the gym and working out. Whatever muscle you work regularly becomes stronger. The grass is greener where you water it. With limited water, what types of thoughts would you like to feed?
Through a consistent gratitude practice, I was able to watch myself grow into a positive, resilient person who truly considers myself to be my greatest asset. I have experienced more joy than I’ve ever been able to experience in the past, and I can now easily find at least three things to be grateful for each day. (On certain, more challenging days, one of the things I might be grateful for might be the fact that I did *not* spill coffee on my shirt on the way to work, but – you get the picture.)
So why wait? A gratitude practice is one of the absolute easiest things you can start doing to become happier, and you are scientifically guaranteed to reap huge rewards. It’d be stupid not to.
Here’s my challenge for you.
Each day, think of 3 things you were grateful for that day, and then 1 thing you are looking forward to in the next day.
It doesn’t matter how small the things you’re grateful for are – just find something. In fact, being able to experience joy from the little things in life and being happy with what you have are huge when it comes to happiness. (More on that in a later blog post.)
Want to share the love? Ask your friends what they’re grateful for. Better yet, check in with them weekly.
Their answers just might bring a smile to your face.