Happiness and Gratitude

If you’re feeling down a good idea is to write down at least three things you’re grateful for as a daily habit. I started to do this some time ago and quickly saw an improvement in my mood along with a more positive general mindset and a greater sense of self-worth.

I began this as a response to finding the Action for Happiness website, printing up their ‘Ten Keys to Happier Living’  poster and gradually trying to incorporate some of these ideas into my daily routine.

The American psychologist, Martin Seligman, conducted a study in gratitude. The essential essence of his findings were that grateful people are happier. You can read about this research in a book co-authored by my partner, This Book Has Feelings, if you’d like to find out more.

‘Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources. So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.’

Action for Happiness Website

Sitting in the local leisure centre waiting for my children to finish their swimming lesson, I began to write my first small list of things I was grateful for. I saw a toddler in a red and white striped bathing suit enjoying the water. At that moment, my mood was lifted by the sight of the joy being experienced by a little girl I didn’t know. So that was one of my first entries, one of the first things I wrote down that I was thankful for. And having written it down means that I still remember it now, and the memory of it still makes me happy and I am still grateful for that moment.

Some days I do this I have to stop myself writing pages and pages of things I am grateful for. Other days I struggle to find more than being alive, my family, and having a roof over my head – but that’s a lot.

I think back on the very difficult times in my life and wonder if this advice is up to the challenges I faced when I was homeless, when I suffered a miscarriage, when my mum was put into a psychiatric hospital, when I was taken into local authority care as a child? But it is. Even in those times I had things to be grateful for, even if it was only the fact that I was alive and somehow managing to cope with horrible situations. And now I can look back and know that I am a person who has made it through; I am very grateful for that.

Taking time to notice all the things I have to be grateful for is the most effective step in improving my mood I’ve ever taken. It encourages a healthy way of looking at the world, because when you’re actively looking for the good things in your life more and more of them show up. So if you’re feeling down this is certainly worth a try.

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