- Type: Written
- Time needed: 3 Minutes
- Frequency: Daily
- Increased well-being
- Positive emotions
How to do it
Write down five things that you have in your life that you are grateful for, and why you are grateful for them.
Don’t do this exercise quickly or mindlessly. For each item you write, take minute or two to actually try to generate the feeling of gratitude for this thing.
If you have trouble, think about:
- Things you have that other people in poorer or conflict-ridden parts of the world may not.
- The past – investigate how people lived hundred of years ago, and what you have now but they don’t
- People you’re grateful to have in your life
- Your circumstances – health, financial, lifestyle, career. These things may or may not be ideal for you, but in all likelihood they could be a lot worse.
Complete the exercise every day for a week.
You can continue this exercise for longer than the initial week if you wish, but you should get a boost in your overall sense of well-being from just a week.
You may find that the longer you do this exercise, the “smaller” your items become. Maybe at first you’re grateful for having a job that pays well. But after a week, you might end up being grateful for something you may take for granted, like, apples or something.
Why it works
When we’re in a slump and feeling sorry for ourselves, it is sometimes because of where we’re placing our focus.
If you only focus on what you lack in life, you’re putting a downward pressure on your happiness. Of course, sometimes, life hits us with problems and it’s normal to feel upset or angry or depressed about them.
The problem though, is when we focus too heavily on these bad things. We get an unbalanced view of or actual circumstances. Taking time to deliberately identify the things we have to be grateful for, can help.
By definition, gratitude feels good – you would not be grateful for something bad. But it’s also possible to look at objectively bad things in different ways. For example, imagine two people fall and break their leg. One spends the next few days thinking about all the difficulties, pain, and inconvenience they will endure as a result. The other spends their time being grateful they didn’t break their back.
Which one would be happiest? Which would deal with this bad situation best?
The Happiness Treadmill
Gratitude is also an antidote for the happiness treadmill. This is where our life circumstances get better, but our happiness stays the same – like we’re stuck on a treadmill.
This happens because we adapt to our new circumstances. They become the new normal, and we start yearning for new things we don’t have.
Gratitude helps to keep you grounded, because it helps you focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t.