Practicing Gratitude: 7 Tips for Lifting Your Mood and Improving Your Day

Research suggests that grateful people have more energy and optimism, are less bothered by life's hassles, are more resilient in the face of stress, have better health, and suffer less depression than the rest of us. Psychological research agrees. Positive emotions are associated with greater creativity, increased problem-solving ability, and greater overall success in life (here's 9 ways happiness leads to success).
Good moods are like an oasis in the desert, sometimes unexpected, always refreshing. Good moods bring optimism, laughter, creativity and just plain joy to everyday living. Good moods help us bear all the daily irritations of life with good grace.
Two psychologists, Robert Emmons, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, PhD, of the University of Miami, conducted a study on gratitude and thankfulness. They divided hundreds of people into three groups, each of which was instructed to keep a different type of journal. One group recorded daffy events, another recorded hassles. People in the third group made lists of what they were grateful for. This last group reported more alertness and optimism and better progress toward goals. These people also felt more loved.
Because gratitude is a great antidote to whining and nitpicking, you might consider adopting an easy exercise from a Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast, who's also a student of Eastern meditation traditions. His idea is that gratefulness cultivates mindfulness, the ability to be present in life with the open-heartedness of a child. He suggests that before bed, you give thanks for one thing for which you've never before thought of being grateful. For example, last night I focused on being thankful a conversation I had with a teenager on the light rail commuter train.
This simple practice really does make you more mindful. When you practice gratitude, you naturally search for kindness, love, and goodness throughout the day so that you'll have something new in mind to be grateful for when bedtime rolls around.


1. Keep a gratitude journal Sit down, daily or every other day, and write about the things for which you are grateful. I have a colleague who keeps a “cool things” list in her journal. Anything cool, which is usually things that are interesting or fun. Just start with whatever springs to mind and work from there. Try not to write the same thing every day but explore your gratefulness.
2. Teach your kids If you have children, giving thanks before bedtime can be a delightful ritual that helps develop a healthy and loving attitude toward life.
3. Appreciate people Make it an everyday practice. Tell them what a good job they do, how kind they are, or how nice they look--as long as it's absolutely true. If you had a good customer service experience, take the time to write a letter to the customer service agent's supervisor. A letter makes a powerful impression and can make you feel good just for taking the time.
4. Ask yourself three questions Choose someone you know, then first consider what you have received from them, second what you have given to them and thirdly what trouble you have caused them. This may lead to discovering you owe others more than you thought.
5. Use visual reminders Two big obstacles to being grateful are simply forgetting and failing to be mindful. So leave a note of some kind reminding you to be grateful. It could be a post-it, an object in your home or another person to nudge you occasionally.
6. Think grateful thoughts Called 'automatic thoughts' or self-talk in cognitive therapy, these are the habitual things we say to ourselves all day long. What if you said to yourself: "My life is a gift" all day long? Too cheesy? OK, what about: "Every day is a surprise".
7. Acting grateful is being grateful Say thank you, become more grateful. It's that simple.
As my mother used to say, you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar, and when you're appreciative and kind, other people mirror that back.