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Would you like to be part of creating a happier society? Do you care about the happiness of others around you? If so please join us, add your pledge and take action - at home, at school, at work or in your community. Together we can create a better, happier future.

I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me

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Action 4

Find three good things each day

People who are grateful tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful can help people cope with stress and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate. This action is easy to do yet its benefits have been scientifically proven. In tests, people who tried it each night for just one week were happier and less depressed one month, three months and six months later.

Why do it?

From ancient scriptures to the latest science, gratitude is known to be good for us and those around us. Yet it isn't always our automatic response and we often take the good things in our lives for granted. So we have to consciously learn to get into the habit of being grateful.

Science is showing that gratitude is important for how good we feel psychologically and socially. It increases how much positive emotion we feel and decreases negative emotion. It raises our overall satisfaction with life and helps us have an overall positive outlook. It has also been shown to reduce health complaints and help us cope with difficulties. It even seems to reduce the importance we place on material goods. And contrary to what we may think, it also appears that it could increase our ability to achieve our goals.

Why does it work? We have a natural focus on what goes wrong in our daily lives often going over and over these things in our head. We are quick to notice even the smallest of problems, yet we rarely spend any time at all dwelling on the good things. Things that brought us a quick smile or felt good are all to often forgotten or perhaps not even noticed in the first place.

This action is simple but incredibly powerful. It's about taking the time to notice the good things in our lives and get the more from these. What's more, if parents remember to talk about the things they're grateful for, this can also help their children learn to think about the good things and hopefully get the benefit of a gratitude habit for the rest of their lives.

Where to start

This action involves consciously spending a few minutes each day focusing on some of the good things that happen to us. By doing this we start to notice what goes right as well as wrong in our lives. Even on a bad day there are some good things that happen, however small.

  1. Every night - before you go to bed, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened - things that went well, that you enjoyed or were grateful for. These can be small (e.g. a delicious sandwich or a child smiling on the bus) or of bigger importance for you. You'll probably find it varies. Try doing this for a week to start with.
  2. Note them down - this is important. You may want to get a small notebook just for this purpose - or you can track them online using a website like Happy Rambles.
  3. Think about why - for each thing you're grateful for, write down why it happened and why you feel good about it. This may feel a bit tricky at first but you'll soon get the hang.
  4. Look back - after a week, have a look back on what you've written. How does it feel when you look at all these good things? Do you notice any themes?
  5. Keep it up - try keeping it up for another couple of weeks at least. Many people find it becomes a bedtime habit. After a while you may find that you don't need to do it every night. Three times a week or even once a week might be enough. You may also find that you start to appreciate the good things more as they happen.
Examples

Here are some examples of good things, including observations on why they happened and whey they were good:

  • "Bumped into Dave - haven't seen him for ages. I'd forgotten how much he makes me laugh"
  • "Really enjoyed lunch today - lovely to grab 20 minutes in the park and chat with Jo instead of eating at my desk. It happened because I thought it would be nice and suggested it. And Jo liked the idea too!"
  • "Hooray - the kids did their homework without me having to remind them (too much). It was because we agreed to a quiet hour after tea… which is finally becoming part of the routine"
References

[1] Emmons, R.A., & Mishra, A. (2010, in press). Why gratitude enhances well-being: what we know what we need to know. In Sheldon, K., Kashdan, T., & Steger, M.F. (Eds.) Designing the future of positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. New York: Oxford University Press.

[2] Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131.

[3] Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. London: Penguin Books

[4] Park, N (2004). Character Strengths and Positive Youth Development. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591 p.40 - 54.

[5] Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.

Resources

  • Create and maintain a gratitude journal for life

  • Discover the Groundbreaking Science to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive

  • Discover the power of the 3-to-1 Ratio with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

  • Pack of practical day-to-day actions you can take to boost happiness

  • Let them know what happened to you today

  • A thank you note a day

  • The power of being grateful and some quick ideas we could all do

  • Change How You Feel By Changing the Way You Think

  • A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Children and Young People

  • How learning to be grateful and thankful can make you significantly happier

Positive Emotions

"I've been able to show that fear closes down our minds and our hearts, whereas positive emotions literally open our minds and hearts... they really change our mindsets and our biochemistry"

Barbara Fredrickson

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson
Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina

click to view

Positive emotions make us more resilient

Our emotions affect our long term well-being. Research shows that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads to a tipping point beyond which we naturally become more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things.

Being grateful

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom"

Marcel Proust

Thank You