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Aristotle argued that we become what we habitually do. If we spend our days thinking of everything that has gone poorly and how dark our future appears, we can think ourselves into misery.
While we should pay attention to the many injustices to be righted, we can also make the world a better place by being aware of the good things it already affords. We can change ourselves into the kind of people who seek out and celebrate things we can be thankful for.
One way to cultivate a disposition of gratitude is to give thanks regularly - at the beginning of the day, at meals, and at the end of the day.
Holidays, weeks, seasons, and years can be punctuated with thanks - grateful prayer, writing thank-you notes, and keeping a gratitude journal.
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The practice involves writing down things for which you are grateful. Researchers say it is more impactful to write in detail about one particular thing than to jot down a superficial list of things.
Writing once or twice a week is better for your well-being than doing it every day. It is because we adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we always focus on them.
Write a letter of gratitude to someone, even if you never send the message. The positive effects this has on the brain can last for months.
The 18th-century American preacher Jonathan Edwards defined gratitude as a natural affection felt toward another person who has benefited us.
Gratitude is generally interpersonal and can induce positive feelings even toward our foes.
Positive psychologists have credited gratitude (both personal and interpersonal) with:
The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.
Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. Sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.
Dig a little deeper into some of your own past experiences and try to figure out how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.
Sit down daily and think through five to ten things you are grateful for.
Picture it in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude in your body. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful, and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.