Practicing daily gratitude will boost your happiness
“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.” — Dalai Lama
Thanksgiving is the day of gratitude, but it doesn’t have to be the only one.
Being thankful develops a positive mindset, especially when we practice it every day. We grow in the direction of what we regularly focus on — daily gratitude improves your well-being dramatically.
Why limit being grateful to just one day?
Science Wants You to be Grateful
“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
― Haruki Murakami
Bad memories are easier to remember.
Negative experiences tend to be more vivid than positive ones, as shown by fMRI studies. Rewiring our brain takes time. You have to train your orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala to acknowledge positive events — you must build a habit of creating good memories.
Science wants you to be grateful — acknowledging positive events is beneficial for your health. A study found that regularly and deliberately recording one’s blessings improves our mental health and physical well-being.
Additional research shows that being thankful opens the doors to more relationships, improves your sleep, and boosts your self-esteem. But what does it take to get there?
Appreciation is the joy of seeing the good in something or someone — this mental state boosts both our happiness and motivation.
As Charles Dickens wrote, “Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Appreciation requires not taking everything for granted — it’s about discovering the value in what you already have.
Gratitude connects you to something greater than yourself — it’s experiencing life as a surprise gift. There’s always something new to discover and be thankful for. You have to keep your mind open — make room for the good memories, not the bad ones.
There are three sources to discover appreciation:
- The blessings and experiences in life
- The good within others
- The good within yourself
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful — we are ready to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Avoid approaching daily gratitude with a transactional mentality; it can backfire. Focus on building the habit. Enjoy the practice without expecting anything in return.
Developing the Gratitude Habit
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” — Cynthia Ozick
Gratitude is more than saying thank you. It’s about acknowledging the value of your experiences — thankfulness requires genuine appreciation.
Gratitude involves a complex interplay between the giver and receiver, as I wrote here. If you thank someone for something meaningless, they will perceive your gratitude as an obligation. If you are appreciative just to look good — the world will realize you are not genuine.
Being appreciative starts with yourself. Most people are unhappy because they can’t acknowledge their own goodness. Start by setting up time for daily appreciating — provide room and attention to positive events.
Keeping a gratitude journal is an increasingly popular practice — it helps you create the time and space for focusing on what went well. Your life is full of things — no matter how small — for you to be thankful. Start paying attention.
A gratitude journal has many benefits:
- It gives you a new perspective on what is important to you.
- It can lower your stress levels.
- Journaling can help you feel calmer, especially at night.
- By writing what you are grateful for, you gain clarity — you realize what you want more in your life.
- Your gratitude journal is a journey to increase your self-awareness.
The daily practice of writing what you are thankful for should include both what you have and what you haven’t. Not being sick or unemployed are also things to be grateful for.
A gratitude journal is a simple and effective way to create positive memories — put the energy in capturing every good experience, no matter how small. Happiness is a byproduct of all your victories — small wins help create momentum.
How to Keep a Gratitude Journal
‘”Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.” — Helen Keller
We spend our lives looking for that perfect moment — a gratitude journal will help you see happiness in real ones.
I recommend writing it at night. Finish each day with a grateful attitude — the mindset you bring into bed shapes your sleep.
1. Set up the Scene
One hour before you go to bed, unplug yourself from TV shows, social media, emails, news, etc. The light of screens reduces the melatonin production — it confuses your body putting your sleep in jeopardy. Also, you want to remove distractions.
Sit down in a comfortable position and take 2–3 deep breaths. Feel how the air flows through your body. Reconnect with your body. Take deeper breaths and relax.
2. Put Your Worries Aside
What worries you? Continue breathing. Reconnect with your day. Remove distractions. When we worry, we can’t pay attention to.
What keeps you anxious or worried? Write it down. Visualize how your worries move from your head to the paper.
3. Identify Positive Memories
What should you be grateful for today? Revisit your entire day and recollect all good moments, no matter how small.
Write down everything that you should feel grateful about life, others, and yourself. The purpose is to finish your day celebrating good stuff instead of complaining about what went wrong.
You finished a project. Your boss congratulated you in front of the entire team. You finally finished reading that book. Your sister called to let you know she’s pregnant. Your best friend is in town and invited you for dinner. Your son did the dishes before you asked him to.
Be specific. Capture the experience, not just the fact. “My wife gave me a gentle massage on my neck while I was preparing dinner for the two of us.”We remember and connect with stories.
4. Reflect & Wrap Up
A gratitude journal is a habit of recognizing the best in us, people, and life. By affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials, we acknowledge the positive in life.
Once, you captured all the good news, reflect on the day. What’s the story? Write one sentence to summarize your day using this format: “Today was awesome because…”
5. Repeat & Practice
At first, you might find it hard to remember the ‘good stuff.’ That’s okay — we are wired to remember the bad things. However, in time, your brain will become better and better at creating positive memories.
Practice builds a habit. Focusing on the positive will feel more natural day after day — your list will grow longer and longer before you even notice it. Practicing gratitude will help you develop a more positive outlook. Reflect on how you are improving your ability to deal with your challenges.
Thankfulness is more than celebrating a delicious dinner with your family. It requires taking the time to pause and reflect.
Once Thanksgiving Day is over, don’t let your sense of gratitude fade. Train your brain to remember the positive. A gratitude habit will improve your mental and physical health.
Practice journaling to realize and remember everything you want to be thankful for — appreciate the positive in life, others, and yourself. Feeling grateful and happy is something to celebrate every day, not just once a year.