A thousand thanks! Why practising gratitude increases your happiness

A Thousand Thanks: Why practising gratitude increases your happiness. Image of Thank You card in an envelope

Firstly, thank you!

Thank you for being here.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you if you choose to like this post, or share it or decide to stick around and subscribe to further posts – or not, still, thank you!  Your time is precious and I’m grateful that you choose to share it with me.   

Why all the thank you’s?

Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.  Practising gratitude (through giving thanks) is a powerful tool for improving your life satisfaction. 

Alongside focusing on well-being and adopting a positive mindset, for me, gratitude is a key ingredient to feeling happy. 

How does practising gratitude increase your happiness? 

A Thousand Thanks: Why practising gratitude increases your happiness. Image of smiling woman holding happy emoji balloon

Research has shown practising gratitude can positively impact us emotionally, socially, within our careers, our health and even our personalities. 

Crucially it adjusts our focus on what we have rather than what we are lacking.  It provides an opportunity to apply a more balanced perspective.  It can also make us kinder, especially when we feel we have more to give.  Which all helps to improve our relationships with others.

It works wonders for our self-esteem too!  Someone once said you can’t feel optimistic and pessimistic at the same time.  In the same vein, we cannot feel envy at the same time as feeling gratitude.  Through a habitual gratitude practice, comparison to others begins to factor less which helps to raise our self-esteem. 

So, by focussing on the good in your life, it helps you feel more positive and optimistic.  And when we genuinely feel we have so much to be thankful for, we can’t help but feel happier. 

Do you realise how much you have? 

I might not personally know you, but I know you have a lot.  You might not realise it yet, but you do.  (You shouldn’t feel bad if you haven’t realised it – it’s just our human nature coming into play.)  As humans, we get ‘used’ to things.  Things that brought us complete joy on first receiving, through normalising, become regular and we stop seeing them as something we should be grateful for. 

Livingprettyhappy.com young happy woman jumping up and down on an unmade bed

How many of us can say this about our relationships, our careers, our material goods? About anything really.  We commonly take something that we were jumping around the room happy about and over time actually find things to complain about.   

This adaption to our new circumstances is completely normal.  It’s necessary for our growth as a species, but it’s detrimental if we allow it to completely block our appreciation for what we have right now. 

So what I’m saying is – it’s perfectly ok to want more but your happiness hinges on remaining grateful for what you have now.  The ‘more’ will come through maintaining positive habits such as practising gratitude. 

How do you practice gratitude? 

Daily.

As often as you can. 

You can do it at a set time each day or multiple times throughout the day as a regular noting practice. 

You can practice internally or verbally. 

It’s really simple and it’s FREE. 

You just have to think about what you’re grateful for. 

A Thousand Thanks: Why practising gratitude increases your happiness. Image of heart charm on a wooden surface with the words I am grateful on it.

Set aside a moment and try finishing these example sentences:

  • I am so grateful for….
  • I am so thankful for…
  • I am really blessed to have…

Finish each sentence with a smile on your face and the words ‘thank you’  This just helps to give the practice focus. 

Tailor the structure to what best suits you.  For example, you may find it easier to mentally address it to an actual person who you’re grateful to:

  • Thank you (insert name) I’m really grateful to you for…

Or if you’re religious, you can address your God:

  • Thank you, God, for…

Or whatever you believe in, or don’t believe in – the point is to frame the gratitude statement in a way that resonates the deepest within you.  The deeper you can feel the gratitude the more powerful the practice. 

Opportunities for practising gratitude 

At any point in the day, when something good happens and you feel happy about it, just take a second and think or say the words ‘thank you’.  It’s that easy an action.  That few seconds to say, thank you, bookmarks that this was something to be grateful for.  This has a knock-on positive effect on your day. 

However, when you’re first adopting the practice, it’s beneficial to make a more noted effort in order to cement the habit. 

Some find journaling beneficial.  They take the opportunity to sit and write down what they’re feeling grateful for.  This could be a set number of things each day or as many as they can think of.  Plus after a while, as the book fills, it’s very powerful to read back through it all.   

livingprettyhappy.com gratitude.  Image of 2 journals on a table with 2 pencils resting on top

I’ve also heard of somebody creating a gratitude jar.  Every time they felt grateful for something, they would write it on a small slip of paper and place it within a glass jar.  The visual representation of the jar filling helps to demonstrate how your life is filled with things to be grateful for.  Emptying the jar at set intervals and reviewing everything that was included is a really positive and re-affirming experience.

Personally, I practice gratitude as part of a nightly meditation, which I have to say, sounds fancier than it really is.  Every evening as I get into bed, I close my eyes, take some deep breaths and then mentally list everything from that day that I’m grateful for and say, thank you. 

Sometimes this takes me 2 minutes and sometimes (it has been known) up to 20.  I find it exceptionally calming, helps me to focus on the good from the day, makes me feel more positive and sends me to sleep with happier energy – which undoubtedly has a positive effect on my mood the following morning. 

Top tip: To push the gratitude forward into the next day,  set positive intentions the night before.  Start to give thanks for anything that you feel you are already grateful for (even though it hasn’t happened yet).  So for example, I might think – I’m grateful for the opportunity to go for a run tomorrow.  I’m grateful to Beth for agreeing to meet with me tomorrow.  I’m grateful for my husband offering to cook tomorrow night – thank you.  You get the idea.  

But I’m just not feeling it…

I have days where despite my immense awareness of everything I have to be grateful for, I just feel flat.  The key is not to put pressure on yourself.  You’re human after all.  We get tired, hormonal, our anxiety spikes and despite our best efforts, for whatever reason, it doesn’t click.  Forcing the feelings on one of those days will get you nowhere.  I wouldn’t say abandon the practice, but just accept things for how they are in that moment.

If you struggle at first to come up with things, just start with one thing.  There is always at least one thing to be grateful for.

I think practising gratitude is important, even when you’re not feeling it.  Particularly because it helps you to identify any areas of your life you might want to address (like I did with my career) or even what outside help or support you might need.

Want to take practising gratitude even further? 

Firstly, when you’re thinking about what you’re grateful for also think about why you’re grateful for it.  Spending a few moments to think exactly why you’re grateful helps to deepen the gratitude experienced.  So, if we go back to my I’m grateful for the opportunity to go for a run tomorrow example, I would add on because it allows me headspace, increases my physical wellness and raises my energy for the day ahead.  Now, not only do I feel happy about the opportunity to run, but I’m even more happy about all the benefits I’m about to receive from it. 

Additionally, something which on first thought might be just one thing to be grateful for actually could be broken down into multiple things.  For example, I could think I’m grateful to my mother-in-law for babysitting the kids this weekend.  This in itself is something to be grateful for, but I can break that down further.  I’m grateful for her giving her time to look after my children, I’m grateful my kids have such a loving Nanny, I’m grateful for the support, and so on.  Approaching it from this angle really helps to see exactly how much gratitude that one act should generate, making your responses and expression of gratitude more appropriate. 

Finally, earlier on I mentioned that practising gratitude can be done internally, however, to push it further, acting on the gratitude (where appropriate) strengthens the effects.  How about writing someone a thank you? Buying someone a token of appreciation gift?  Returning the favour and be sure to explain why,  I was really thankful when you bought me a coffee the other day,  please allow me to return the favour.   

A Thousand Thanks: Why practising gratitude increases your happiness. Image of 2 women embracing and 1 is holing a gift box in her hand

Top tip: Try to replace the word sorry with thank you, where you can.  Instead of, sorry for the delay, try, thank you for your patience.  Instead of sorry for taking up your time, how about, thank you for your help & support?  A simple re-framing of apology to gratitude will not only help to build self-worth but also sets a more positive view in the person you’re interacting with.

Never underestimate the power of saying THANK YOU…

But say it with meaning – expressing gratitude in this way is such a powerful thing and shouldn’t be a formulaic throwaway.  You are being handed an opportunity to acknowledge happiness.  No matter how big or how small, every happiness is a blessing.  Should you wish to feel happiness in your everyday life it’s on those blessings your focus should lay.


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Find out more & discover other happiness boosting posts here: April Well-being Focus: Happiness

Were you aware of the power of a thank you?  Did you realise before how beneficial practising gratitude is?  Is it something that you currently practice?  Is it something that you feel you could slot easily into your life?  Do you think it will help?  I’d love to know your thoughts, please get in touch via the comments box below and THANK YOU! 

 

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6 thoughts on “A thousand thanks! Why practising gratitude increases your happiness

  1. A great post Alex – we should all be more grateful for the things we have. I’m definitely very thankful for my wonderful family and the fact that I can choose my own hours, have a great bed to sleep in, that chocolate exists, playing netball….the list goes on… xxx

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