Growing up with a mother as a counselor definitely had its perks: she was incredibly patient, a supportive listener, and always gave the best advice. Even though my mom is retired, she continues to help others by sharing her years of wisdom on what it takes to be truly happy. She’s told me time and time again that while material goods might make me happy in the moment, that feeling is fleeting. I’ve learned people who are the happiest don’t have the most money or aren’t the most attractive, but they all share one thing in common:
Happy people practice gratitude every day.
While this may seem simple enough, our minds tend to focus on what we’re missing out on instead of being grateful for everything we already have. Our generation has it even harder because we are living in a social world where we are constantly connected. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have enough when everyone on your social feed appears to be doing cooler things than you.
Good news: there are ways to practice gratitude each day to live your best life. Here’s how.
Starting your day with five minutes of silence has been proven to change your brain chemistry, making you more resilient against life’s hardships. However, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to meditation. I used to think you had to think about absolutely nothing (which is pretty much impossible) during your practice. But really, meditation is all about being present and not focusing on what you’re going to have for dinner or that you forgot to pick up something at the grocery store. The purpose of meditation is to take time for yourself to set an intention for your day and be grateful in that moment.
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2. Create a gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is different than a regular journal because it makes you focus on only the good stuff rather than venting about your worries or writing down everything that went wrong in the day. Each day, you should write down at least three things that you’re grateful for. By doing this, you can actually rewire your brain to be happier. It’s kind of like the “camera effect.” When you have a camera, you’re constantly looking for interesting things to capture. Instead of hating the graffiti, you might shift your way of thinking and try to make it aesthetically pleasing in your frame. That’s how the gratitude journal works for your disposition. Instead of focusing on pessimistic thoughts, you’re going about your day looking for positive things to add to your gratitude journal.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
Reflect on your mood and outlook, after you spend time with certain friends. Do you feel inspired and connected or do you feel drained and dissatisfied? If it’s the latter, you might want to reevaluate your friendship. We only get one life to live, so why waste any time surrounding yourself with negative influences? It’s not easy to cut certain people from your life, but it’s even worse to feel unhappy because of the people you’re surrounded by. By positioning yourself around inspirational and positive people, you’re setting yourself up for a more sunny outlook and successful future.
4. Talk back to your negativity
You know that inner dialogue that says you’re not smart enough, pretty enough, or cool enough? While those nagging thoughts are completely normal, the trick is to talk back to them with positive affirmations so they don’t get in the way of your happiness. It may seem silly at first, but it works, trust me. If I catch my mind going down a dark rabbit hole, I counter it with logic and positivity. It’s OK to have bad thoughts, but what’s more important is how you react to them and to make sure they don’t take over your life.
5. Add value and focus more on your community and others than yourself
When you’re down in the dumps, it’s easy to get lost in “me, me, me,” which can lead to self-pity and depression. However, when you take yourself out of the equation, you’ll start to feel happier because you’re helping other people. Try volunteering, writing cards to loved ones, or cooking dinner for a friend in need.
If you practice gratitude each day, you’ll slowly start to see a positive change in your disposition and overall outlook on life. It will take discipline and self-control, but really, aren’t things you work hardest for worth it in the end?
Written by Stephanie Wong