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A year of living gratefully

When was the last time you expressed gratitude? Not just a quick ‘thanks’ but a deep-felt appreciation for some of the goodness in your life?

Many researchers have connected gratitude to higher levels of happiness and lowers levels of stress and depression. In one study, gratitude had the highest link to wellbeing of any personality trait. Grateful people don’t start with better experiences in life, but instead learn how to re-frame whatever happens to look for the positive. If you wait for events to make you happy, you can be waiting a long time. But if you change your perspective, you can find the good in whatever occurs.

Sadly, though, most of us are more likely to say thank you to the barista at the coffee shop than to the person who loves you the most, such as a partner. We have so many expectations of them, that they become impossible to achieve. Sure, he or she may be a good cook – but why don’t they earn more money so we can buy that house you want? Meanwhile, all the barista has to do is get the cappuccino order right. However, by looking out for the positives (“thank you for cooking tonight, darling”) rather than worrying about what they haven’t done, you will feel closer, will likely get over arguments more quickly and will have a renewed basis of goodwill in general.

In fact, gratitude can actually strengthen the neural circuits that generate feelings of connection. Thanking someone for doing your ironing once isn’t going to have much of an effect; just like lifting weights at the gym, repetition is key to seeing results.

Same goes for the workplace. Some 81% of people said they would work harder if their boss was more grateful. The smartest companies are now recognising that gratitude helps everyone succeed, and are implementing reward schemes to allow employees to both show and receive appreciation for tasks they have done. If you work for a company that doesn’t understand gratitude, start it yourself. Gratitude makes you happier to go to work every day, and when you’re positive, people like to be around you and will help you succeed.

So, how to build ‘thank you’ into your day? Well, the best way to keep yourself on track may be to start a gratitude journal. Write down one thing each day that you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it can be as simple as taking a moment to enjoy your children eating breakfast and laughing at the kitchen table. In fact, showing your gratitude first thing in the morning can really alter your mindset for the day (for the better, of course). Keep the journal by your bedside table, so if you’ve had a bad day, or just can’t sleep, you can easily reflect and flip the situation to see the good side. Maybe your boss snapped at you because she’d had a bad day herself; it’s easy to jump to conclusions if we get ourselves in a tizz.

Have a go, and bring gratitude into your home and work life. Hopefully you will be able to feel the joy of life’s goodness, and hold onto that feeling through both the good and bad times, no matter what the world decides to throw at you.

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