The key to happiness is gratitude.

That shouldn’t be a secret to anyone, but I understand that it can be tricky to hold on to gratitude, to let it sink in deep and keep you happy.

I haven’t always been the most grateful or happy person. I used to be angry, frustrated and sarcastic. I’d drink a little more then I needed, and whine a lot more then I needed. I was most certainly not the sparkling ray of sunshine many of you know now.

A practice of gratitude is what changed that for me, and I believe, has changed it for those around me as well.

There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.

~Robert Braul

I started with listing what I was grateful for at the end of the day. At the time I was very ill and I had to find something to be happy about. My list went something like this:

  1. I am alive.
  2. I can breathe.
  3. The sun is shining.

Sometimes that’s about as far as I got. But the thing about gratitude is that if you look around, there’s plenty to be grateful for, especially if you’re determined to find it.

Even on my worst days I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to be able to walk, talk and work, surrounded by amazing friends and family.

Write it down. Make it habit before bed. Or, even better, when you have that before bed chat with your love/child/pet talk about the things you’re grateful for today. (Repeats from the day before are okay!)

The real game changer, however, was when I ceased be silently grateful. Something happened in the last year of my life, something magical that has changed not only me, but the lives of the people around me: I started gossiping about my friends.

No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

~Bertrand Russell

I started telling people about my awesome best friend. And how pretty, smart and resourceful my friends and clients are. When people said, “That’s a great idea!” I said, “I know! So-and-so came up with it. Aren’t they brilliant?” In passing I’d mention how gorgeous she was, or how helpful he was – all of it utterly true.

Then, I made sure to tell my friends how amazing they are. Sometimes directly, sometimes round about on online, but always clearly.

I’ve found that sincere appreciation goes a long way, especially if expressed regularly. Something lights up in a person when you tell them, genuinely, how wonderful you think they are. Try it. It’s kind of addictive, the amount of pleasure they receive from a real compliment, and the amount of joy it brings you.

Next time someone does something nice for you, go beyond “Thank you.” Try, “I really appreciate that you {fill in the blank}, thank you.” Being explicit about your gratitude shows that you’re paying attention, that you see their effort and concern.

It might feel a little awkward at first. It may seem a little strange to other people too. Keep practicing, however, and people will notice.

Other little ways to express gratitude:

  • Post them as updates on Facebook or Twitter. Public acknowledgment of gratitude is powerful and helpful to others as well!
  • Write a Thank You note. This is so old-fashioned that the person who receives it will be deeply touched.
  • Alternatively, leave little notes. Mom did this in my lunch and it was awesome. Even just a post-it note for your favorite people that tells ’em that you’re thinking of them or missing them is great.
  • Make it habit. I have one friend who refers to her fiance as her handsome brilliant lover or some-such and at first, yeah, it seemed a bit over the top but it’s endearing and, frankly, I’d be delighted for my romantic partner to talk about me that way.

What do you do to express gratitude? Who can you gossip about?


One thought on “Gratitude

  1. Pingback: Rule #4: Be Deeply Grateful « summer says

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