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Happiness is so important it is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.  But it can seem elusive at times.  According to several studies, one key to happiness is gratitude.

It can be work to be thankful when things aren’t going your way.  But if you’re alive, there are reasons to be grateful.  Here are some ideas to bring gratitude and happiness into your life.

Create a Gratitude Journal

Start with a blank notebook and each evening before bed write down one (or five) things for which you are thankful.  By having to focus on appreciating the moments or things in your life you’ll become more appreciative.

Every once in while read back on past entries and it’ll make you happiness just seeing all the good things in your life.

Pay it Forward

Remember the commercial where one good deed by a person is noticed by another who turns around and does something nice for a third person?  That’s the concept of paying it forward.  Maybe you won’t know how your actions affect others but going out of your way feels nice.

It can be something as small as paying for the coffee of the person in line behind you at Starbucks.  Of course, if you’re Bill Gates it could be working to eradicate smallpox in the world.  The point is that you’re giving to someone else with no expectation of payback.    It feels good to help others.

Say Thank You

Two words can make such a big difference.   Thanking people for their time, service and deeds does two things.  It makes you stand out because not enough people show appreciation these days.

It also brings it home that you should be grateful for that person.  Take the time to write thank you notes or letters regularly.  The daughter of one of my co-workers sells a lot of Girl Scout cookies at our office every year.    I was blown away when she wrote thank you notes for every customer and kept it on my desk for months.

Stop Complaining

Complaining about the little things in life encourages discontent and unhappiness.   I first became intrigued with the concept of eradicating reducing complaining when hearing about a book titled “A Complaint Free World” and the 21 day challenge on Oprah.

I’m a complainer and focusing on gratitude helps me cut back and realize I really don’t have much to complain about in life.

Increase your personal happiness by showing gratitude with these ideas or others.    If you have an iPhone there’s even an app for that, aptly named “Gratitude and Happiness”.   What actions do you take to show gratitude?

Photo: Some rights reserved by kateausburn

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14 comments add your comment

  1. When you compare happy people to unhappy people, I think you could look at whether they do the things you put on this list. More often than not, those with gratitude are happy. Those without, are unhappy. Someone in my family is one of the most ungrateful people I know and she’s continuously unhappy. I think this lesson could go a long way!

  2. Great points! I used an app on my iPod touch called the Gratitude Journal and it definitely helped put a lot of things into perspective. It was great. And just taking some time out to breathe and relax can make you happier.

    • @ Money Beagle, when someone is unreasonably rude I just figure they’re unhappy. It helps me not take it personally or get mad.

      @20 and Engaged, I read about that app and thought it sounded great. I’ll need to look for an Android version.

      @Jeff, I do feel like a good person saying thank you. It makes every transaction better.

      @No Debt MBA, it’s amazing how many people don’t treat their family the same as strangers. Sounds like you and SO are great partners.

      @Krantcents, I’m sure that boy appreciated your compliment. I’m an optimistic person too so maybe that is part of it.

      @ Jackie, was this a specific website for the gratitude journal? I guess i could always create a google calendar and write an entry every day.

  3. I’d have to agree that saying “thank you” makes all the difference, on both ends. People feel better if they hear it and you feel better saying it.
    Beagle also makes a great point – those who are ungreatful are often unhappy. Be thankful for what you DO have, dont focus on what you dont.

  4. My SO and I try to make a point of saying thank you to each other just as we would with coworkers or strangers. It makes us both feel valued and appreciated.

  5. I think it is part of being optimistic, when I am happy I show a lot of gratitude. Recently, I went out of my way to compliment a young boy on how he presented himself. I felt good doing it and I think he felt good hearing it.

  6. I had an online gratitude journal for awhile and found it really did help. Now though I try to give compliments to people daily. I think it’s beneficial because it makes me appreciate things and it shows the other person that they are appreciated.

  7. Every morning I walk into work, I give thanks I have a job and a view of the Bay. Seriously, I am grateful every single day!

  8. It seems easier to complain than to compliment, and yet, so much better for everyone if the reverse is true. I need to follow these tips for awhile!

    For awhile, I worked in an office where it was the norm to pass around compliments to your coworkers. I liked receiving them, so I made a goal to find something to compliment everyone else on every day. Let’s just say I felt way more comfortable working there than where I am now – although I do try to still pass out some compliments, it feels just a little more awkward since no one returns them.

  9. I am a firm believer in this! A variation on the gratitude journal that I use is with those one-a-day calendars where you tear the page off. As I tear the page off I use the space on the back to write five things I am thankful for, then I stick it in a basket. Every so often I look through the basket–about once a year. There are amazing miracles happening in my life!

  10. Doing some of these things costs almost nothing. Plus, if you were complaining, you can compliment just as easily, so there’s almost no net time cost either.