One of the easiest ways to lift your mood, feel happier and have a positive impact on the people around you is to start being a little more thankful, every day. With these eight simple steps, you can create a massive shift in your experience of the world and your mental health.
Before long your outlook will improve, and there will be even more things to feel gratitude for. Your friends will notice and they will feel more thankful too. You will start a ripple of thanks and that ripple can change a lot.
There really is nothing to lose. And no time better to start than now.
1. Start small
First, make a commitment to yourself. Be realistic. Start where you are and commit to an achievable goal. “From tomorrow I will be consciously thankful for three things every day for a month.” Be specific. Make it measurable. Be clear when the goal is accomplished.
2. Link to existing habits
You are far more likely to create a new habit if it’s linked to an existing one.
– When you wake up and after you turn off your alarm.
-After brushing your teeth
-Before you eat breakfast
-When you log-on to your computer at work
-Before you answer the phone
-When you take a tea break
The key is to link it to ‘Before’, ‘After’ or ‘Whilst’ doing an existing habit.
So “From tomorrow I will be consciously thankful for three things every day – AFTER I brush my teeth – for a month.”
3.Use the right tool (for you)
Maybe you have that Gratitude Journal sitting in your bottom drawer that you never got round to using. Maybe you already have your favourite notebook. Or maybe you’re paper-free and like to use a simple notes app on your phone. Or one of the many gratitude tracking apps. Personally, I have used all three at different times for different reasons. If I’m out on a walk in nature getting away from tech I find a simple notebook and pen is best. When I’m at home after my morning meditation, I prefer my journal. On the go, my phone is often the handiest way using a simple notes app.
If you find it difficult to find three things to be thankful, this simple trigger list can help:
- One thing you like about yourself.
- One thing you are grateful for.
- One thing you are looking forward to.
Thank you Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind for sharing this.
4. Take baby steps
Your goal may be to be thankful for three things a day every day for a month. But make it even easier to get started and to get some early success. Why not start with one thing today? Choose your tool from above and do it, now.
5. Tell someone
Once you’ve started, tell someone you care about what you’re doing. Share your goal, share why you’re doing it (more later) and ask them to hold you accountable. No big deal just a nudge once a week or a check-in. Now copy and paste the text below into your messenger app of choice.
Hey there! I’m working on making myself appreciate life a little more this year.
I am writing down things to be thankful for every day. Will you help me keep it up? Thanks.————————
Select your accountability buddy. Ping. Boom!
6. Mark your progress
There is an effective way to hack your subconscious to help you keep on track.
Mark a big ‘X’ somewhere every time you practice gratitude. My favourite way to do this is the Do Lectures Habit Calendar – a poster you can stick up at home. Or you could create a grid with 30 squares in your notebook. Gratitude Journals and apps probably have a way to do this built-in. As you create a ‘streak’ of Xs a curious phenomenon called ‘loss aversion’ kicks in. Your subconscious won’t want to break the chain – as it represents 95% of your brain that’s a massive help.
Every time you mark your progress, give yourself a dopamine hit. Yes, that addictive feeling you get from a ‘like’ on social media you can also get by saying ‘yay’ out loud when you achieve something. It releases a feel-good shot into your brain. Another way to hack your subconscious into working for you, not against you. As well as marking your progress, every time you hit a milestone, give yourself some reward– chocolate, massage, treat etc. Linking your gratitude practice with positive emotions will again help embed the habit.
8. It will make you happy too.
In research, people who practised gratitude every day felt significantly happier themselves. Appreciating what you already have and who you already know and being truly thankful is surely worth a go. You and those around you will all be better for it.
Now, if you haven’t started already, please read this again.
(Maybe you can show me some gratitude and share this with someone you are thankful for, too.)
Michael Townsend Williams is the author of Do Breathe: Calm your mind. Find focus. Get stuff done. Find out more at DoBreathe.com
Illustration by Caroline Tomlinson