What can have the greatest positive impact on your happiness?

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There are several ways to increase your positive emotions and feel happier in your life, as explored and tested by positive psychologists and researchers. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject, tried out many of the ideas myself and boosted my happiness in the process.

If I were to suggest only one step to take (several would be much better but let’s stick with one for the moment) to have an impact on your wellbeing and the happiness, what would it be? Gratitude.

More and more research is backing up Robert Emmons and Mike McCullough’s original study which found that a gratitude practice – writing down three things you’re grateful for each day for 21 consecutive days – increases your happiness.

And it’s so simple to do. It costs no money – you can use any old notebook or the Notes app on your phone to write your three things – and takes very little time. And yet the benefits, particularly when combined with other key positive strategies and actions, are significant. As well as increasing your own happiness, which spreads to others, it’s also shown to lower blood pressure and boost your immune system.

To create a gratitude practice all you need to do is write three down things at the end of each day that you feel thankful for, that you’re glad about. They don’t need to be big, it can be as simple as noticing a tree in bud, five minutes peace with a cuppa, someone holding the door open for you, or your train arriving on time. However difficult your day is, whatever life has thrown at you there really will be three things you can think of that were good about your day. It will only take one or two minutes so you don’t need to set aside a chunk of time for it.

Make it easy for yourself to turn your gratitude practice into a habit by putting your notebook somewhere you’ll pick up every day. It could be by the tea bags so you write your three things while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Or on your bedside table so you write them when you get into bed.

The crucial point is to make it a habit which means writing your three gratitudes every day for at least 21 consecutive days. It’s called a gratitude practice for a reason, you need to do it every day for it to become part of your life and to have the significant impact on your wellbeing and happiness. You’ll find as time goes on you become more aware of what you feel grateful for as you go about your daily business, you looking out for what you can write that night.

Gratitude practice is powerful. Along with several other key actions it can have a significant impact on your life. Give it a go, you’ll be glad you did.

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