The habit that has brought me the most joy, is to take a moment for gratitude every day. I can honestly say that it has changed my entire life and my level of happiness and satisfaction in life.
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Why Gratitude Leads to Happiness
Think back to a moment when you were happy. In that moment, didn’t you feel gratitude, appreciation, and happiness over what was happening in that very moment?
For me, every single one of my happy memories consists of me being present, aware, and grateful for what was happening at that moment. And when I think of the times I’ve been sad or in another negative mood, I know for sure that I wasn’t overwhelmed by gratitude.
The science behind it
One more scientific explanation for why gratitude feels so good is because it releases dopamine and serotonin. They are the body’s official “feel good” chemical. It is the same neurotransmitters that drugs act on to make humans feel better. So, I would say that practicing gratitude is the best natural and healthy drug-like state we can put ourselves in. And it’s free!
For me, it’s clear that gratitude is crucial, if not the only thing we need to feel happiness. When in gratitude, we can feel happy even in moments of discomfort. I’ve been happy while I’ve been hungry, cold, or felt physical pain. And I have never been unhappy when I’ve been full of gratitude and appreciation for what I have or experience.
How to Practice Gratitude Daily
Practicing daily gratitude is easy. And it feels amazing.
To get started, decide for yourself that you are going to take a moment for gratitude every single day. It can help to associate it with a daily habit you already have, for example:
- The first things you do when you wake up
- While brushing your teeth
- When opening the windows
- On your daily walk
- While drinking your first cup of coffee
And as for the duration of how long to practice gratitude, there’s no rule. It can be anywhere between 10 seconds up to 30 minutes (under meditation for example). Even just stopping for 10 seconds, and really allowing yourself to fill up with the feeling of gratitude will make you happier.
What to Feel Gratitude For
When you first start to practice, you may hesitate because you don’t think you have a big reason to currently experience. But there are always things to feel grateful for.
One method is to focus on feeling gratitude for one thing. For example, the coffee or clean water that you are drinking. Focus on that. My thoughts may go “Wow, to imagine that I am here, alive, and in this safe place. I am grateful that I can sit here and slowly enjoy this cup of coffee/water. Imagine if I didn’t have this? I am grateful that I do have it now.”. And focus on the feeling of gratitude. You may even write your thoughts down if you want to.
Another method is to focus on the beauty of something such as the clouds, the sunshine, plants, art, sunsets. Just take a moment to be present, to be grateful for the beauty you are able to witness. Perhaps close your eyes, just breath a few deep belly breaths, allowing this good feeling to spread as much as possible in your body.
Sometimes, I also ramble in my head or write down one thing that leads to another, of all the things I’m grateful for in my life right now. And from the past. And in the future. This might go like this: “I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to have both my hands, all my fingers, my legs, my feet, my eyes. I am grateful for my sight, my senses, to be able to feel the texture of my clothes. I am grateful for my freedom, my safe home, to have food I love to eat. I am grateful for my family, for the love my parents have shown me during my entire life. For my friends, all the nice memories we have, the places I’ve visited, the laughs I’ve shared with others. I am grateful for my future, I know there are good things waiting for me. I am grateful for all the possibilities I have in life. I am so happy to be here alive”
How do you know it’s working?
It’s not a weird question. I myself wondered the first time: “Am I doing this right”?
Most importantly, you will feel a feeling of gratitude. But secondly, you may experience some of these physical effects where your:
- Neck starts to tingle a bit
- Chest feels like it’s expanding and opening up
- Breath is getting deeper and fuller. You are taking belly breaths.
- Lips are drawn to a smile
You will feel a lightness in your head and new energy in your mind. You will experience a boost of optimism, and perhaps creativity. You have simply become happier. This is the best feeling we can experience. Everything in your life and around you will gain a new shine, a new vibrance, and you will find a new appreciation for life and the world around you.
It may take practice until you can call upon the feelings of gratitude instantaneously or when you’re in a rut. But with practice, you will get better and better at it. It almost feels like a magic trick sometimes, how such a small mental practice can change your entire view of reality.
I wish you all the luck, and sincerely hope you start this practice!