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Gratitude is the key to ...... Happiness

Sometimes 'happiness' can sound like a luxury only other people can afford. Given the unforeseen events of the last year or so even more so. You may have caught yourself thinking "how can I possibly be happy when my boss is mean/husband forgot/jeans don't fit/*insert own dissatisfaction here*. However, I have good - no, GREAT - news. There is a fast track to happiness and its name is gratitude. Not only are grateful people more happy, studies have shown they are healthier, have a greater sense of wellbeing and redeem far greater life satisfaction.

Gratitude is a deliberate acknowledgement for all the things one appreciates in their lives, whether this is physical or non-tangible. It's like creating an itinerary of all the good things that exist in your life. Taking time to appreciate each thing makes one aware how so much good occurs externally from our selves, which in turn can help one tune in to a sense of 'something greater' than the individual which may be humans collectively, the wonder of nature or something spiritual.

Consider gratitude the multivitamin of your wellbeing toolkit.

Interestingly, when one charges straight for happiness you can actually end up feeling less satisfied. This is because such blinkered motivation tends to focus attention on all the things you don't currently have, cultivating the false belief that "I'll only be happy when X happens". Instead, by remembering everything you have to be grateful for now, you can start feeling happy right away!

The process of reflecting on everything you have to be grateful for - from relationships to experiences - causes one to relive positive moments and emotions, deepening and cementing the sensation of happiness. On this note, it is more beneficial to focus on these aspects of life rather than material goods. Those who direct their attention to the non-material fortunes tend to feel they are content with how much they possess as 'things' become less important.

Gratitude can be extremely beneficial for our relationships too. One study revealed that individuals who made a point of telling their spouse how grateful they were for them subsequently felt more positively towards them. Furthermore, they also felt more able to voice grievances concerning the relationship.

Saying 'thank you' can make a huge difference to your's and other's wellbeing too; a study by Dr M. Seligman showed that when participants thanked another person face-to-face for a previous kindness, the thankers own happiness scores increased. Indeed, in the workplace these two simple words have been shown to increase motivation and achievement when an employer remembers to be grateful for his employees efforts.

Being grateful doesn't come naturally to everyone, but it is skill that everyone can practice and benefit from. The most simple way you can do this is by writing a list of 10+ things you are grateful for either in the morning or evening (or both!) and reflecting on them for a little while. They don't have to be earth shatteringly original; some days I truly am grateful for the smell of grass after it rains or the brownie I had this afternoon was squishy; other days I'm almost dumbstruck with gratitude for the kind words of a friend. If you want to take this a step further, you could try sharing your list with someone regularly or even set up a little messaging group with some friends where you can post your daily gratitude and share in each other's happiness.

Another activity you can try is to write a hand-written note to someone to tell them how you appreciate them and their effect on your life (bonus points for delivering it in person and sharing the good vibes with each other!). If you don't have time to put pen to paper, amazingly merely thinking grateful thoughts about someone and mentally thanking them will increase your own sense of wellbeing! So as you finish reading this now, take 60 seconds to think about someone who you're grateful for, imagine sending them warm positive energy and feel your own happiness swell!

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