Studies show that the regular practice of gratitude wont just make you happierit can also yield major benefits, ranging from fewer doctor visits to lower heart-disease risk. But giving thanks needs to be a daily habit. Here, five different ways to tap the power:
Collect your reflections Keep a gratitude journal on your nightstand and write down what youre thankful for at the end of each day. As you fill it up, youll have a physical reminder of your blessings, and over time, your outlook will shift too. (Searching for the positive after a rough day teaches you to be more optimistic.) To be sure your entry carries weight, make it as specific as possible. Writing one paragraph on how your husband was able to make you laugh in the midst of todays mini-crisis, for example, will be more beneficial than creating a laundry list of universal blessings, like family, health and a roof over your head.
Say grace before a meal The simple ritual of expressing deep gratitude for the food youre about to eat makes you feel lucky to have it, and it can actually help you eat better too. How? By pausing to say a few words first, youre forced to slow down and direct your senses to the dish in front of you, which quells mindless munching.
Share a happy status update To more deeply appreciate a small but significant event that comes your way, like a gorgeous sunset, post about it on a public forum like Twitter or Facebook. By typing out a quick sentence and hitting send, youre stopping for long enough to acknowledge your good fortune and youre sharing that gratitude with others, which helps you feel connected.
Refocus your fitness If you view workouts as burdens and not blessings, think about the gifts that something as simple as walking for 20 minutes can give you, like a stronger body, a reduced risk of disease and a longer life. Youll be more motivated to work out, and once you do, youll have plenty of time to contemplate your other blessings. (Proof that it works: Research shows that those who routinely expressed gratitude exercised 33 percent more per week and had more body confidence than those who werent thankful.)
Write a note Several studies show that writing a gratitude letter to someone who has been kind to youeven if you dont actually send itleads to a boost in happiness. So pull out a sheet of stationary and thank someone from your past, whether its the high school teacher who encouraged you to apply to college or the nurse who cared for your dad at the very end.