How to Practice Gratitude and Increase Your Happiness

By: Pine Rest Staff

Group of people all wearing red shirts standing together in the shape of a heartPerhaps you’ve heard that being more grateful can help you have a more positive mood. In fact, recent research has shown that grateful people tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful helps us deal with stress and be our best.

But how do you go about cultivating an attitude of gratitude?

Being grateful is more than just saying, ‘thank you.’ It means appreciating something each day and finding joy in life. Taking the time to recognize these positives encourages us, lifts our spirits and empowers us, especially when we share them with others.

Below, Pine Rest staff share some simple ways you can increase your joy and resilience in life.


Three Good Things Exercise

“Each day, write down three good things about your day … anything you feel good about or thankful for. Try to include why you believe each of these things is good. Repeat for at least one week. If you’re so inclined, continue the practice another week … and maybe another.”

– Rev Karl VanHarn, Gratitude: Finding Three Good Things Each Day


Keep a Gratitude Journal

“Keep a gratitude journal to practice the habit of focusing on the good in your life. It is impossible to develop contentment without learning to be grateful for what you already have. Learning to focus on the good things in your life is essential. Sometimes the good appears dwarfed by the bad we are facing, but the good remains. Slowing down and looking for the good regularly moves us toward contentment even when bad swirls around us.”

-Jean Holthaus, LISW, How to Give Yourself the Gift of Contentment


A Morning Gratitude Exercise

If your loved one is nearby, pause a moment and listen to their breathing. Allow yourself to be aware of their presence with you. Grateful for their life and the life you share together. Allow yourself to think and feel how amazing it is, what a miracle their love for you is. Think about all the ways their loving presence enriches your life in the past and now.

 

If your loved one is gone, think about one moment you shared with them. Think about what a blessing it was to have them in your life for that time, and to have them in your heart right now.

-David Agee, LMSW, Finding Happiness Through Gratitude


Stop Judging Yourself Exercise

Do you feel guilty because you know you should be counting your blessings but can’t because of anxiety or depression? This exercise will help you take your attention off the judgmental thinking and put it on the only thing you really have to think about – this moment!

  1. Instead beating yourself up for a lack of gratitude, put your attention on what is happening in the moment (running errands, cleaning house, etc.)
  2. Use your senses to just notice what you see, hear, smell, taste or feel in the moment. (Is it warm, cold, windy, smell like cinnamon, are birds chirping, is their music, etc.)
  3. When you catch yourself worrying about the future or overthinking the past, bring your attention back to the moment and practice #1 and #2 above.

-Kym Hansen-Duell, LMSW, ACSW, How to Count Your Blessings When You Have Depression


Write Thank You Notes

Has someone given you a gift, done something nice for you, or you just appreciate their presence in your life? Thank you notes are a simple, easy way to show gratitude, and they can help you think about how the gift or person made you feel.

–Michael J. Reiffer, LMSW, Teaching Children to be Grateful Givers


A Special Note For Individuals Diagnosed with Depression

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to count your blessings when you have depression. That’s a symptom of your depression! So how do you get through the holiday season when you’re not feeling very thankful? Try these mindfulness exercises.

  • Instead beating yourself up for a lack of gratitude, put your attention on what is happening in the moment.
  • Use your senses to just notice what you see and hear in the moment.
  • When you catch yourself worrying about the future and overthinking the past, bring your attention back to the moment.

Through mindfulness, you take your attention off judgmental thinking and put it on the only thing you really have to think about.

-Kym Hansen-Duell, LMSW, ACSW, How to Count Your Blessings When You’re Feeling Depressed


Compiled by Kris Brown, staff writer.

 


DO …
THINK …

As you wake each morning, allow your eyes to open.
I am glad to be awake.

Gradually allow yourself to become aware of your breathing.
I am glad to be breathing.

Stretch and move.
I am glad to be sensing, moving, thinking and feeling.

Listen to the sounds around you.
I am glad to be aware. I am glad to be alive.

Breathe in and out.
Each breath signals a new beginning.

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