10 Grateful Steps to Happiness

Beach

[Photo by nattu]

PsyBlog has gone gratitude-mad this week, what with reporting experimental evidence that practicing gratitude can increase happiness by 25% and reviewing ‘thanks‘ , the book by the study’s author. To round it off here are Dr Robert Emmons’ top 10 tips for actually becoming more grateful, and consequently more happy.

1. Keep a gratitude journal
Sit down, daily, and write about the things for which you are grateful. Start with whatever springs to mind and work from there. Try not to write the same thing every day but explore your gratefulness.

2. Remember the bad
The way things are now may seem better in the light of bad memories. Don’t forget the bad things that have happened, the contrast may encourage gratefulness.

3. Ask yourself three questions
Choose someone you know, then first consider what you have received from them, second what you have given to them and thirdly what trouble you have caused them. This may lead to discovering you owe others more than you thought.

4. Pray
Whether you are Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, a ritualised form of giving thanks may help increase gratitude.

5. Use your senses
80% of people say they are thankful for their health. If so, then get back in touch with the simple human fact of being able to sense what is out there: use your vision, touch, taste and smell to experience the world, and be thankful you can.

6. Use visual reminders
Two big obstacles to being grateful are simply forgetting and failing to be mindful. So leave a note of some kind reminding you to be grateful. It could be a post-it, an object in your home or another person to nudge you occasionally.

7. Swear an oath to be more grateful
Promise on whatever you hold holy that you’ll be more grateful. Sounds crazy? There’s a study to show it works.

8. Think grateful thoughts
Called ‘automatic thoughts’ or self-talk in cognitive therapy, these are the habitual things we say to ourselves all day long. What if you said to yourself: “My life is a gift” all day long? Too cheesy? OK, what about: “Every day is a surprise”.

9. Acting grateful is being grateful
Say thank you, become more grateful. It’s that simple.

10. Be grateful to your enemies?
It’ll take a big creative leap to be thankful to the people who you most despise. But big creative leaps are just the kind of things likely to set off a change in yourself. Give it a try.

Read my review of ‘thanks!: how the new science of gratitude can make you happier‘.

» Read more evidence on the power of gratitude.

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 13 September 2007

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