International Happiness Day might sound like the stuff of greeting cards, but it was actually created by the United Nations (UN), which recognises happiness as a ‘fundamental human goal’.
The occasion certainly has its roots in the right place. Because spring symbolises joy, new life; and as poet William Wordsworth famously wrote, ‘a host of golden daffodils’.
Therefore, over at Broccoli & Brains HQ, we are busy creating our very own gratitude lists. It might sound twee, but various scientific studies show that people who regularly practise gratitude tend to benefit from more happiness, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure and better sleep patterns. What’s not to like?
To elaborate further, a gratitude list is basically what it says on the tin. It’s a way of charting the positive people, places, memories and moments that come across our radar as each day progresses. Gratitude devotees tend to be far more optimistic about the future and demonstrate greater compassion and empathy for those around them.
Practising gratitude is also recommended for those battling depression and recovering from addictive behaviours (including compulsive overeating) because a healthy mind leads to healthier choices.
You can write a gratitude list as little or often as you like. You’re in the driving seat. But, here’s a few tips to help get you started:
Begin with the basics. It might simply be the roof over your head, someone smiling warmly at you, a phone call from a friend, a driver giving way at a busy junction, your child giving you a hug, or a pet that’s super excited to see you when you get home.
You can reference some things quickly, whilst adding more depth to others. Research indicates that going into detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list.
Don’t forget to focus on the everyday people who bring positivity to your life. We so often take those closest to us for granted.
One effective way of generating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain things, rather than just adding in new stuff.
Savour surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to bring stronger levels of gratitude.
Write regularly but don’t become enslaved. A study found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported more happiness than those who wrote three times a week.
Want some more inspiration? Check out this great Ted Talk: