3 Great Ways To Force Yourself To Be More Grateful (and a Little Happier)

At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, breathe deeply, appreciate where you are, and be grateful for what you have. Life is good.

Most of us have amazing family members, friends, and other loved ones who love us back. Learn to appreciate what a gift that is. Most of us have good health, which is another gift. Most of us have eyes, with which to enjoy the amazing gifts of sunsets and nature and beauty all around us. Most of us have ears, with which to enjoy music–one of the greatest gifts of them all.

We may not have all these things, because we can’t have everything, but we certainly have plenty to be grateful for. To an extent, we know this already, and yet we forget. It happens to the best of us.

Sometimes Marc and I get so caught up pursuing the next big thing that we forget to pause and appreciate the things we have, and the things we’ve experienced, learned and achieved along the way. And the most tragic part of this is that our happiness takes a major hit.

As human beings, when we aren’t grateful for what we have, we aren’t capable of being happy.

This is not just some self-improvement cliché either. It’s been scientifically proven. For example, researchers in numerous positive psychology studies (like this one) have split study participants into two groups and instructed one group of study participants to reflect on the little things they are grateful for at the end of each day, while the other group just goes about their normal routines. Then, after several weeks, both groups are interviewed, and it becomes clear that the first group enjoyed considerably greater life satisfaction than the other group during that time period.

Why does this happen?

The simplest explanation is that forcing ourselves to focus on thoughts and actions related to gratitude, regardless of circumstances, helps our brains develop positive emotions. In one notable study, researchers asked participants to smile forcibly while thinking of something specific they’re grateful for. They found that this consistently stimulated mental activity associated with positive feelings and emotions.

The bottom line for most of us (severe depression and other related mental illnesses notwithstanding) is pretty clear: when we force ourselves to be grateful by making gratitude a part of our daily routines, we actually feel a lot happier.

In the end, the secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. If you…

read more…