05/27/2014 04:15 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2014

One Weird Trick for Happiness

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Okay fine, it's not weird, and it's not really a trick per se... but the point is that there is one extraordinarily simple thing that you can do to become happier. And the real reason you clicked on this article was because you wanted to be happier, right? Perfect, read on.

The one thing is gratitude. It's really that simple.

Gratitude is one of those things that we sort of all know is good for us, and one of those things we appreciate when we see in other people...but unfortunately we are never really encouraged to pause and ask ourselves how we might become more grateful people.

The good news is that gratitude is like a muscle, it can be exercised and conditioned, and it will perform better. You can become a more grateful person. The even better news is that this "gratitude exercise" doesn't require you to go to the gym and sweat... all it requires is for you to pause and reflect. So much easier (and cheaper) than exercise! And the best news is that gratitude is proven to make us happier. True story.

Researchers have proven that simple habits of gratitude can make you up to 25 percent happier over time. 25 percent is a ton. By contrast, research suggests that winning the lottery only boosts happiness by as little as five percent after the initial buzz wears off. Of course you would question the sanity of a person who would rather write a few thank-you notes each week than win the lottery -- but the funny thing is he/she would be a happier person. Five times happier, to be precise. Money can't buy happiness, but gratitude can.

So let's get happy. Let's try gratitude. Becoming a grateful person is so incredibly easy that it actually almost does feel like one weird trick. It may seem quaint or old-school, but handwriting writing thank-you notes and sending them in the mail, is one of the most timeless and beautiful gestures we still have left, and it is proven to make you happier. It also has the power to strengthen relationships, affirm friendships, encourage strangers, reduce stress. So let's take action and start there -- with the thank-you note.

When you send a "thank-you email," it is soon archived and lost in cyberspace (when was the last time you printed out a "thank-you email" and held onto it)? On the other hand, when you receive a thank-you note in the mail, and consider the time someone spent on you to express their gratitude, you can truly sense that they are grateful, it means so much more...and you put it in a shoebox, and you almost never throw it away.

As I wrote earlier, gratitude is like a muscle. The science that associates gratitude and substantial increases in happiness, is based on habits of gratitude...not just single gestures. In much of the research on gratitude the subjects are asked to keep gratitude journals or actively express their gratitude for others by writing to them or telling them directly. It is in training themselves to daily and weekly reflect gratefully on their lives, that the subjects become happier. That's the trick.

So pencil some gratitude into your calendars for the coming month. It's a no risk trial.

Author Matt Richardson is the co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. Gramr provides a subscription service for beautiful and original thank-you notes, their goal is to start a movement for gratitude and grateful living -- learn more about their vision of a more grateful world here.

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