Are you looking to increase your happiness, to feel more joyful and positive about life? Do you know that there is a simple and highly effective strategy with zero side effects?

More and more people are becoming switched on to gratitude and for good reason … Gratitude improves what you see in the world and it can increase the joy in your life. Perfect ingredients to build resilience and to buffer ourselves from mental health challenges.

The research

Gratitude is one of the six strategies that I share in my keynote talks to equip people to THRIVE. There is now significant research confirming that it can increase our levels of happiness, reduce depression, improve sleep and increase energy (refer Robert EmmonsToepfer, Cichy and PetersSeligman for examples).

One study found that people who wrote down three things that went well each day, and identified the causes, for just one week reported increased happiness levels six months after completing the activity.

There are many ways that you can practice gratitude, including keeping a gratitude journal (a great place to write the three things that went well for you), creating a gratitude jar to capture your thanks, sending someone a thank you note, or meditating on what you are grateful for.

Gratitude models

I’ve been practicing gratitude for over three years in a group of five. Every day we text three things that we’re grateful for, trying not to repeat where possible. When you’re forced to look a bit harder it helps you to see the many things that you take for granted (a hot shower, the smile exchanged in the supermarket, the person who let you into the traffic). Once you tune into gratitude you really start to notice the good things in your day. Think “every day is not good but there is good in every day”.

What’s awesome about group gratitude is that you have accountability (they’re expecting to receive your gratitudes), there’s a inbuilt reminder when their’s start arriving but one of the most amazing benefits is that you get to vicariously live the joy of the others in the group. It’s like a megadose of gratitude.

You could even introduce gratitude to your workplace – a gratitude board, thank you post it notes to let someone know how much you appreciate something they did or maybe sharing gratitudes for a positive start to a meeting. Imagine the lovely vibe that you could create if people feel appreciated and you are all getting the benefits of a gratitude practice.

Why you need a practice

Many people I speak to say that they are grateful but very few that I come across actually have a gratitude practice. The power is in the practice. Leadership expert, Brene Brown, extolls the virtues of gratitude, saying that in over 12 years of research on 11 000 pieces of data, 100% of the people she interviewed who identified as joyful had a gratitude practice, not an attitude of gratitude, she points out, but an actual gratitude practice.

Have you got room for more joy in your life? Perhaps it’s time that you thought about a gratitude practice? You can download a Guide to Gratitude here to get you started.

Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid course here.