The single most frequent habit of happy people is gratitude. They notice it, feel it, express it, absorb it, and practice it. Gratitude is a stress reliever, a mood booster, and it gives the immune system a lift. (1) It offers these benefits of exercise plus better sleep without all the sweat.
Still, it's surprisingly easy to lose sight of this simple habit. In fact, it can be very difficult to be grateful when you are faced with a heavy "to do" list, a surly teenager, an annoying spouse, or a stack of bills. You might even think that it's frankly impossible to be grateful with the mountain of troubles in your life.
But here's the thing: Happy people are grateful regardless of their circumstances. If they have cancer, they're grateful for their medical care and family support. If they're single, they're grateful for their friendships. If they're unemployed, they're grateful to have a roof over their heads. You get the idea.
Furthermore, happy people experience gratitude in bite-sized bits all day long. In my book Shortcuts to Inner Peace, I explain how gratitude is the foundation for happiness. So let's break gratitude down into the fundamentals.
Happy people are grateful for the little things
They don't take for granted everyday experiences like waking up alive, running water, electricity, vision, or a plate of food. They notice everyday miracles and are grateful for them.
Happy people intentionally take time for gratitude
They have an assortment of gratitude practices that they employ. They may spend time at the end of the day writing down or mentally listing the things from their day for which they're grateful. They may use meals as a time for reflection on their blessings. They make gratitude a daily practice.
Happy people let gratitude sink in
They take a moment to let their experience of gratitude fill them up. They don't just say the words, "I'm grateful", they actually feel the experience of gratitude. They might sigh, breathe, or exclaim as a way of absorbing their feeling.
Happy people are grateful for the people around them
They have the habit of thanking people in their lives for the little things. They dole out frequent compliments, thank yous, and positive feedback.
Happy people talk about their gratitude
They share with others their feelings of bliss and abundance. They are vocal with their gratitude and infect others with their joy.
Happy people are grateful for other people's successes and joys
Happy people enjoy other people's good fortune. They live in a world where there is plenty to go around. They do not see someone else's gain as their personal loss. They see gain as something to be shared and celebrated by all.
Happy people know that life is an obvious miracle. You too can see life in this way once you train yourself to notice wonder. So open your eyes, practice gratitude habits regardless of your circumstances, and watch the happy moments in your life multiply.
(1) Hanson, R. & Mendius R. (2009) Buddha's Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. (pg. 75).
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