At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, breathe deeply, appreciate where you are, and be grateful for what you have. Life is good.
Most of us have amazing family members, friends, and other loved ones who love us back. Learn to appreciate what a gift that is. Most of us have good health, which is another gift. Most of us have eyes, with which to enjoy the amazing gifts of sunsets and nature and beauty all around us. Most of us have ears, with which to enjoy music–one of the greatest gifts of them all.
We may not have all these things, because we can’t have everything, but we certainly have plenty to be grateful for. To an extent, we know this already, and yet we forget. It happens to the best of us.
Sometimes Marc and I get so caught up pursuing the next big thing that we forget to pause and appreciate the things we have, and the things we’ve experienced, learned and achieved along the way. And the most tragic part of this is that our happiness takes a major hit.
The Science of Gratitude and Happiness
As human beings, when we aren’t grateful for what we have, we aren’t capable of being happy.
This is not just some self-improvement cliché either. It’s been scientifically proven. For example, researchers in numerous positive psychology studies (like this one) have split study participants into two groups and instructed one group of study participants to reflect on the little things they are grateful for at the end of each day, while the other group just goes about their normal routines. Then, after several weeks, both groups are interviewed, and it becomes clear that the first group enjoyed considerably greater life satisfaction than the other group during that time period.
Why does this happen?
The simplest explanation is that forcing ourselves to focus on thoughts and actions related to gratitude, regardless of circumstances, helps our brains develop positive emotions. In one notable study, researchers asked participants to smile forcibly while thinking of something specific they’re grateful for. They found that this consistently stimulated mental activity associated with positive feelings and emotions.
The bottom line for most of us (severe depression and other related mental illnesses notwithstanding) is pretty clear: when we force ourselves to be grateful by making gratitude a part of our daily routines, we actually feel a lot happier.
How to Force Yourself to Be More Grateful
In the end, the secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. If you forget, begin again.
There are, however, three specific gratitude strategies that Marc and I often cover with our students and coaching clients. We’ve literally seen these strategies work wonders for people over the past decade (and we practice them ourselves too). I encourage you to implement them, gradually, one at a time, into your life. And if you need further assistance, we’re here.
1. Practice a private, evening gratitude ritual.
Here’s a super simple, five-minute, evening gratitude ritual:
Every evening before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day and their causes. Simply provide a short, causal explanation for each good thing.
That’s it. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive electronics, big homes, fancy cars, and lavish vacations hoping for a boost of happiness. This is a simple, free alternative, and it works.
If you begin this ritual this evening, you just might be looking back on today many years from now, as the day when your whole life changed.
2. Practice giving thanks publicly.
Although gratitude comes from within, the public expression of gratitude is important too. In his best selling book, “Authentic Happiness,” the renowned positive psychologist Martin Seligman gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. He recommends that we ritualize the practice of expressing gratitude in letters to friends, family, coworkers, and other people who we interact with in our community.
Marc and I have put this gratitude strategy into practice in our own lives by ritualizing it into our morning routine. We write a short email, text message, or letter each morning to one specific person, mindfully thanking and praising them for what they do that makes our lives a little brighter. (Marc and I build mindful gratitude rituals with our students in the “Happiness and Positive Living” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
3. Practice reflecting on the little things you are grateful for.
It’s fairly easy to remember to be grateful for the big and obvious things that happen—a new addition to the family, a great promotion at work, a significant business breakthrough, etc. But the happiest people find ways to give thanks for the little things too. Ponder these perspective-shifting points from an article Marc wrote a while back:
- You are alive.
- You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night.
- You didn’t go to sleep outside.
- You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning.
- You haven’t spent a minute in fear for your life.
- You know someone who loves you.
- You have access to clean drinking water.
- You have access to medical care.
- You have access to the Internet.
- You can read.
Be honest: when was the last time you were grateful for simply being alive, or going to sleep with a full belly? More specifically, think of all the little things you experience—the smell of a home-cooked meal, hearing your favorite song when it randomly comes on the radio, seeing a marvelous sunset, etc.
Pay attention, and be grateful.
Truly, the richest human isn’t the one who has the most, but the one who needs less. Wealth is a mindset. Want less and appreciate more today. And remember, the best time to focus on being grateful is when you don’t feel like it. Because that’s when doing so can make the biggest difference. (Marc and I discuss this further in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
As for me, I’m wrapping up this article with a quick note of gratitude to YOU:
Thank you for reading this article and other articles on www.marcandangel.com.
Thank you for being a part of our community.
Marc and I are truly grateful YOU are here with us. 🙂
It’s your turn…
Right now, I’d love for you to reflect on #3 above…
What’s something little you’re truly grateful for, that you sometimes forget to appreciate?
Do you have any other thoughts on gratitude to share? We would love to hear from you.
Please leave a reply below.
Also, our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference is taking place February 8-9, 2020 in San Diego. Ten discounted early bird tickets are still available today (while they last).
Modest Mulenga says
Dear Marc Marc & Angel,
I am reading your blog and writing to you from one of the remotest parts of the world in rural district of Mporokoso – Zambia in the Southern part of the African continent.
First, I am so grateful for the big brains behind the internet – has made the world so small – who has made the human race to access information so quick and easy – on the finger tips.
You are an incredible couple to humanity. I can not imagine how on earth you have managed to positively impact/affect humanity regardless of race, location, color or belief.
I want to thank you guys for 1) the beautiful language (easy to read and understand) you use, 2) universal subjects you intelligently select which affect all humans 3) your practicality – most of the issues you select, do resonate to many people’s experience – reading from their feedbacks 4) your ability to deliver your meassages through stories and experience. )Your course and coaching which have changed my life.
I can not imagine following you for almost 2-3 years now. I subscribed to so many blogs but today, I am proud to say I have very few on my list and yours is on top in my inbox. Most of the times, I do not miss reading your blogs each time I receive their links in my inbox.
I am so grateful to you guys for having contributed positively to the change in my life, and please keep on affecting people’s lives…….can only wish you all the happiness you deserve.
Thank you so much..:)
That was Perfectly stated! Its all true,!! Their Blog IS the first thing I read each time.
Hi Mulenga, read your thougts from mexico city, so true…..wish you the best. !!!
Reading from Zambia too! ?
Its truly are wonderful resource this website. I’ve learned so much from it.
Right now I am grateful for your emails, and I am especially grateful that even in my mid 70’s, I am enjoying my life. I have a good family, fine friends, am fairly healthy, reasonably comfortable financially, always try to have fun and try to find joy in everything.
There are things that we wrongfully think they will be there forever. We take them for granted, but in fact we should be grateful for them. The truth is they will not stay there for ever, so we should appreciate them. When they are gone, no one and no money can bring them back:
1- my family
2- my health
3- my time
I would like to say Thank you, your book and posts have helped me through very tough times. Operations, Relationship break ups, betrayal of a friend and a very unexpected and on going illness with my daughter.
I’ve struggled at times but can always revert back to your posts and reiterate the messages of “it will be ok’
Although things haven’t turned out the way I thought then would when planning out my life, I’m so greatful for all I am and what I have achieved so far.
Thank you for everything, keep up the good work.
Gratitude is one of the gifts that I instilled in my children by doing a nightly bedtime ritual of “best part of the day”. I wanted them to know that there was always something, even on days that hadn’t been the best. For me it is often linked to nature, but it can also be about a smile at the store with a clerk, or even a hard lesson learned that serves me now. Life is rich with opportunities for gratitude, if we are open to them. Thanks for all the great posts, I get lots of newsletters, but yours is one I routinely read.
Air. I am grateful for air. It:
-powers my brain to process the grateful thoughts ?
-offers a foundation for my spoken kindness and verbal praise
-allows me to join in song
-let’s me float on it as the wind carries my spirit
-wraps me in the power of God
-moves earthly things into a formation of chaos and order simultaneously
-grows tiny seeds into bountiful crops
Thank you for expressing yourself so adequately.
Michelle C. says
This article landed in my inbox right on time! Absolutely excellent!
It’s always nice to be reminded that a little gratitude and self-reflection can go a long way, and have a dramatic impact on your life and happiness. I sometimes forget just how fortunate I am to have the ability to think for myself, and enjoy a reasonably healthy body. I don’t have it all, but I have enough to be grateful for right now. Thank you for reminding me.
And thank you for your course and coaching. After a terrible loss and abrupt change in my life, I’ve been re-learning how to stand on my own two feet. Your guidance has already had a profound impact on the progress I’m in the process of making.
I am very thankful that I came across your website back in 2010. Since I found you guys my life has changed. I even attended your Think Better conference two years ago. Simply wonderful! And today I’ve already started practicing gratitude and my first thanks goes to this amazing couple “Marc & Angel”. Love you guys! Happy Thanksgiving!
The path for knowing of the self is really hard but I am very reassured every time I read something Marc and Angel write, has the right timing for what I need to hear. The gratitude ritual is an immense source of goodness and peace. We sometimes forget that we have it all, but just get used to it. We forget to take perspective and be really amazed by the things and people in our lives and the possibilities that we have open for us.
Many many thanks, to you Angel and Marc. You are a big blessing in my and others pursuit for the real happiness.
Bless you. Raquel
Charles P says
My wife Lori is always doing what seems like a “million little things” for me, us, our home, our family. Too often I unfortunately took those things for granted.
Just over a year ago after months of tests and misdiagnosis, one morning I awoke, unable to stand up. My legs would not support me. Fed up with all the weeks and months of seeing me in pain and nothing being done to help me, Lori literally carried me to her SUV and rushed me to the hospital of the second major medical system in our city.
In a few hours I was diagnosed with Stage-4 cancer, on the brink of being terminal. Prognosis was that if I lived (and that wasn’t a given) I would likely never walked again.
Lori took on another “million little things”, being with me constantly at the hospital, going home to take care of our now “left at home” fur baby each morning and evening, and pushing the medical staff to do everything for me. She refused to accept anything except my recovering.
Much sooner than than the Oncologist team wanted to, Lori convinced everyone I would recover faster at home, and that there was a team to help me in that recovery. The hospital finally released me to her and “her team” of care.
That team was one person – Lori. With no family even remotely near, and no one else, Lori took me home, set up a hospice in our downstairs family room since my going upstairs to our bedroom was out of the question, and pushed to see me heal.
She set aside the business she had spent the previous five years building up, and took care of me as if she were a half dozen people. Feeding me, cleaning me, giving me therapy, changing bedding, running errands, taking me to the countless hospital visits for treatments, chemotherapy, radiation and the like.
Lori took on the roll of spiritually building me by praying for and with me, reading passages out of the Bible and devotionals, and positive television programs.
She took care of our fur baby, kept our home maintained – on and on relentlessly 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
I needed to get back to my job, so Lori took me to work early every morning, getting me in place before the rest of the staff arrived. She set up my office with a mini-kitchen so I could eat, drink as I needed.
She would come and get me, and get me prepared for the next day. Her ceaseless “million little things” not only saw me healed of the cancer (declared cancer free to amazement of everyone recently) but also got me to walking. A walker and her support led to a cane and led to my own wobbly legs to well, would you believe mowing our lawn.
I am alive, well, and full of life because of God’s blessings through one remarkable woman who loves unconditionally, and loved me so much to give up herself to see me to today,.
I was always grateful for her “million little things”. Laying in that bed, seeing her do everything she did each day all those months made me more grateful. Looking back on twelve months of her goodness, efforts, dedication and persistence, I see where I didn’t always appreciate it all.
Today I do. I now never miss a chance to give Lori the accolades she deserves – not just for what she did for me, but for those “million little things she continues to do for me and everyone else.
Life is better for many because of one beautiful, amazing, creative and adorable woman – my wife Lori.
Joni Smith says
You have told your story well and it is an inspiration. Lori is an amazing woman with boundless caring and energy. You also have put in the work to become healed, kudos to the two of you and a happy Thanksgiving.
Charles- reading your story brought tears to my eyes. People are remarkable and can move mountains when they want to. Your wife Lori sounds like an amazing person and a champion for you and yours.
Just gave your book to my daughter last night. I have been following you for quite a while. She and her friend have just recently started listening to your podcasts.
We have struggles and we are working through them independently. Through messages like yours we are able to communicate and accept that we are working to be better and do better.
I am able to release the control l never really had and trust that things will work as they are meant to be. I can help myself, her I can only love. Thank you.
I am so thankful for the blessings bestowed on us, even though they sometimes do not come to us wrapped as blessings. Life has been good this year though has had many challenges, in the end, we are blessed and able to pay forward what we have been given, filtering the negative from the mix. Thank you Marc and Angel for what you do.
Adeleke David says
Thank you for this and I say GOD BLESS YOU!
Norma N Cortes says
Marc ? Angel I want to say so much but all I could say is Thank you,thank you,thank you for everything you do,you have been a great blessing in my life…Happy Thanksgiving? always Norma?
Thankyou. for this timely word especially nearing the Christmas season when all we want is more and more, being grateful is a blessed way, much love Jacqueline
Dianne Rodgers says
I am grateful that 8 months ago I googled, “I have lost my motivation and I am stuck.” That’s how I found you guys. Your blogs have helped me with my grief of losing my husband last December to Parkinson’s.
Perla Milner says
I am thankful for so much??as I have said to you always… Thank u for making a difference to so many of us!
Ezinne Martha Onwughara says
Marc and angel, I am happy tonight cause you have made me realized how ungrateful I have been for the small good things in my life and family.
I am grateful for the things you do,for the lives you touch positively am grateful.
I am starting my life on a new slate by living a life of gratitude.
Thanks so much and may you get all the love you deserve and more thanks .
Margaret Holland says
I’m grateful to be able to receive and read the uplifting comments of people all over the world into my own living room.
I’m grateful to know that despite their health worries and all kinds of life problems that people can enjoy life.
I’m grateful to Marc and Angel for sending little sparks of kindness, positivity and joy into the universe.
Today is year 2019. I discovered your website in the middle of 2013. It was the months where I was in a very dark phase of my life. It’s been six years or more than I’m reading your articles. The biggest lesson for me on that phase is to be grateful for all the things that I have. Today, I want to say thank you to both of you. Both of you are a big help to someone living on the other side of the world (Philippines).
Thank you. In our language, Salamat.
Tracy Burton says
Sitting here in my kitchen watching my well-fed and loving 11-week old kitten Moses charging around, I am truly grateful my friend Debbie spotted him wet and shivering in the street. He was tiny and (the vet estimated) just four weeks old. He would certainly have died had she not brought him into her home (where we were temporarily staying). The timing wasn’t great – we were living in her spare bedroom while our house purchase went through – but there and then we made the decision to keep him. This little Ginger tom has brought us so much happiness in such a short time. We are so thankful he came into our lives. Our new house truly feels like a home with Moses in it.
PS I love your emails/blogs and share them with many others who I suspect may be struggling.
God’s timing is perfect. I went to see the clinical psychologist as I have lived with bipolar affective disorder for 22 years now. I used to keep a gratitude journal but after a while I was grateful for the same things every day. The psychologist asked me what new changes have occurred in your life that you are grateful for? She suggested I focus positive changes no matter how small and show my appreciation and gratitude. Last night I got into my own swimming pool in a house I have lived in since April 2018 and never enjoyed. We swam with my cousins and took pictures and had fun. I mark the 26th November, 2019 as gratitude day, enjoying the things you have and also sharing with others the many things you own and fail to pause and enjoy….
I have away a top to my housekeeper and a dress to my cousin….I am glad a read through the mail…God was talking to me and say….be happy with what you have and life a life of abundance!
Good morning Marc and Angel. I appreciate your help. More grace to you. Singing praises is an aspect too. Thank you so much
Sometimes in the midst of uncertainty and tough times it is so hard to be positive much less grateful. But reading this has just stopped me in my tracks and made me think – and realise just how much I do have to be so grateful for. Thank you for such wise words – I needed them.
Er Ravi Gupta says
Great article. Thank you so much, for providing me with this wonderful article. Your Article is impressive and very informative.
I am so grateful I have internet, I follow George Curous who lead me to your blog & that I read this! Fantastic practices!
This article is just amazing