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7hugmom300You’ve probably seen it before—gratitude (being thankful) is the adrenaline of life.  Taking time to notice and reflect upon the things that you are thankful for can make you happier and improve sleep, help you feel more alive, and even strengthen your immune system.

While gratitude might not be the “magic pill,” it’s pretty close.  “Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life,” writes Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.  A dozen or more studies confirm that.

It’s a habit and practice you can begin no matter where you’re coming from. “The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for every day,” suggests researcher and writer Derrick Carpenter. “…it gives us the kick we need to start making changes.”

Multiple studies have demonstrated how gratitude can even help pull us out of the roughest times, giving us more mental strength and balance.

In a 2006 study of Vietnam War Veterans, the ones who developed gratitude (even after all they went through) showed lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms.  In addition, an attitude of gratitude was listed as a “major contributor” to resilience and recovery following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Now, let’s get to the tough question—What if I don’t feel grateful at all?  Here is where most experts seem to agree that behavior trumps feelings.  In other words, like the Nike slogan, “Just Do It!”

Here are some tips to get your gratitude groove going:

  1. Surround yourself…with people that you love and remind yourself what you are truly grateful for.
  2. Take time to reflect …on positive memories. Perhaps remembering a holiday event of cookie baking and family time or fun vacation with friends will help.
  3. Write it down. A daily gratitude journal is a great way to focus your efforts and perhaps reposition events from negative to positive. You might write… “Even though my wife was tired and not feeling good, she made us a special lasagna dinner anyway.” The more specific, the better.
  4. Keep it simple. Post a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator or computer monitor to remind yourself of why you are grateful.
  5. Thank someone sincerely for something they have done. You just may end up thanking yourself!