Rock with "gratitude" written on it

Gratitude helps us appreciate what we have instead of reaching for something new with the hope it will make us happier. And it helps us focus on what we have instead of what we lack. Here are a few ways to cultivate gratitude and build a habit of thankfulness.

Keep a gratitude journal. Sure, it may sound a little woo-woo, but the physical exercise of writing down a couple of things we’re thankful for daily, really helps drive home the idea of gratitude. Writing down our thoughts of gratitude helps us focus on the positive moments in our lives.

Write a thank-you note. This is and exercise that can increase the happiness in the world two-fold. Not only do you remind yourself of the enjoyment and appreciation of someone’s impact on your life, but you also bring a bit of happiness to the receiver when you acknowledge them. Win-win!

Thank someone mentally. This is no substitute for writing a good, ol’ fashioned thank you note, but just mentally acknowledging someone who has done something nice for you can lift to your spirits. Being mindful of all the little kindnesses that happen to us on a daily basis and acknowledging them can really move us from the pessimists’ camp to the optimists’ camp.

Count your blessings. Schedule a time every week to sit down and write about the good things that have happened over the week. Reflect on what went right or what you are grateful for. For those of us that need structure in a process, pick a number of things that you will identify each week (5 things that brought me joy this week!) Be specific and think about the emotions you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray or meditate. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude and meditation can activate the same activity in our brains. Getting into a daily habit of taking a few quiet moments to concentrate on the positive aspects of our lives and be thankful for them can help put us in a contented frame of mind.