Did you know you can train yourself to be more grateful?

If you’re skeptical that’s OK. I used to be too. But the good news is this is something you can test out on your own to see if it’s true.

In a moment I’m going to suggest a simple activity you can do that only takes 5 minutes a day. Do it for 30 days and see what happens. But before we get into the mechanics of how to train ourselves to be more grateful let’s talk about why gratitude matters in the first place.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the top 10 most common positive emotions, according to Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher at the University of North Carolina. The other nine are: joy, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. You can read more in her book Positivity.

And here’s a great excerpt from Shawn Anchor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, which one of my copywriting coaches, Ed Gandia, recommended to me a couple years ago. Ed grew his part-time freelance copywriting business to $180,000 a year before going full-time. But he likes to remind his students that happiness precedes success, not the other way around.

Anyway, here’s what Shawn Anchor says about gratitude:

“Countless other studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier, either; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes.

When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.”

So if you’re consistently grateful then you will be more:

  • Energetic
  • Emotionally Intelligent
  • Forgiving

And less likely to be:

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Lonely

I don’t know about you but those are more than enough reasons to make me want to figure out how to be a more grateful person.

How to Train Yourself to Be Grateful By Doing this One Thing

The great thing about “gratitude training” is that it can be simple and easy to do. There’s no reason to complicate this.

Anyone can be more grateful by simply writing down three good things that happened that day. You can do this in a notebook or in an app like Win Streak (iPhone or Android).

Here’s another highlight from the Happiness Advantage:

“When you write down a list of “three good things” that happened that day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought small or large laughs, feelings of accomplishment at work, a strengthened connection with family, a glimmer of hope for the future. In just five minutes a day, this trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities for personal and professional growth, and seizing opportunities to act on them.

At the same time, because we can only focus on so much at once, our brains push out those small annoyances and frustrations that used to loom large into the background, even out of our visual field entirely. This exercise has staying power. One study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month, and six-month follow-ups.”

So that’s it. Simply record three good things each night for 30 days and then see if it makes a difference. You may want to record a journal entry on Day #1 so you can compare it to your emotional health on Day #30.

Lastly, here are a few tips I’ve learned from doing this exercise:

  1. It works even better if you can share your daily wins with someone. I would share my wins with my wife and then ask her what her wins were.
  2. Make it a game. One reason I like using Win Streak is that it helps “gamify” this training. Plus, I don’t want to break my streak.
  3. Take a moment to really appreciate your three wins. I found if I don’t do this then I can engage my mind but not my heart.