how to make yourself happier the easy way

Start a gratitude practice.

I know, I know. It sounds lame, but the science supports it. UC Berkeley studies gratitude. UC Davis studies gratitude. More brain study research here.

And the science shows, if you want to feel more joy, optimism, and happiness, have a stronger immune system, lower your blood pressure, experience more generosity and compassion and feel less lonely and isolated – you have to practice gratitude.

For years, I resisted keeping a gratitude journal because I thought it was eye- rollingly New-Agey and so simple I thought it wouldn’t do anything. I pretty much mocked the very idea of practicing gratitude. But after reading the Happiness Project, I decided to give it a try because I really wanted to prove it wouldn’t work.

When I started, I kept it really informal. I just kept a running list of little things I was thankful for on my mobile device as I noticed them throughout the day: a cup full of sharpened pencils, a stack of graded papers, a really good hair day, a compliment from a student’s parent, a tasty lunch. Mostly pedestrian stuff.

Random at first and then I got more formal in that I asked myself to track five things every day that filled me with a sense of joy or thanks. Little things. Big things. But especially the little things.

And you know what happened?

I started feeling happier.

gratitude changes everything

Dammit.

Another thing I thought was lame and wouldn’t work, totally proved me wrong. AGAIN.

Today my gratitude journal lives as a document on my Google drive. Each morning after I finish my meditation I write five things I am thankful for and then I close the file.

When my day sucks, as it does occasionally, I open the file and remind myself of all the things that make my life not suck.

And you guessed it, I feel happier.

Interested in starting your own gratitude journal?

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My Attitude of Gratitude 2011 Edition including a link to our shout out on the Oprah Life Blog.

My November Yoga Pinterest board is full of all things gratitude including fancy art journaling ideas and inspirational quotes.

Do you have a gratitude practice? Will you try it for the month of November and see if it works for you?