The Secret Handbook 4 Teens

The 8th Secret: Practice Gratitude

be grateful

“The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get.” – Oprah

Gratitude, grateful, gratefulness, thankfulness, thankful, thanks…it doesn’t really matter how you say it, grateful people are happy people. That’s why the 8th Secret to a Happy Life is to Practice Gratitude.

From scientists to Oprah to religious leaders, everyone has recognized that the more you are thankful for all the good things in your life AND the more you share and express this thankfulness with others, the happier you will be. In fact, a recent study even showed that people who actually needed therapy but couldn’t get it improved just by keeping a gratitude journal. Perhaps even more importantly to you, there was even research conducted that showed that grateful teens are happier teens! Yes, that’s right! You can be a happier teen just by being grateful. (Oh and p.s., grateful teens also seem to get better grades if that interests you at all!)

At this point you’re hopefully saying “Yes! I’d like to be happier by being grateful!” but you don’t know where to begin.

Here are three simple steps to practicing gratitude or thankfulness in your every day life.

1. Write down three things you’re thankful for every day.

You can text them to yourself or write them on a piece of scrap paper or get all fancy and buy a journal (I personally am all about a crisp new notebook & pen but I digress…) – the format doesn’t matter but thinking about three things every day does. I’ve been doing this for about two or three years now and I can honestly say that I’m definitely more appreciative of all the good things in my life.  In fact, knowing that I’m going to need to write down three things almost has me on the lookout for things to BE grateful for during the day. Sometimes my lists seem kind of lame and I really feel like I’m struggling for things to be thankful for but some days I’m amazed at what pops up. No matter how low you may feel, realizing that you have at least three things to be grateful for in your life – no matter how small – will always give you a boost.

2. Be grateful for the small things. 

Speaking of small things, you don’t have to look for big things to be grateful for. Don’t get me wrong, if you suddenly get a free iPad by all means be grateful for it but it’s the little things in life that we often take for granted that are so important. Noticing the sun rising as I’m driving to work or the sound of the soft summer wind blowing through the trees outside my window always makes me feel thankful. What are you thankful for? A quiet day to relax and just hang out? A day with friends? The way the sun feels on your face? Being grateful for all the small things really helps to put life into perspective because you realize that you actually have quite a bit to be thankful for – you just don’t realize it.

3. Be grateful for the tough moments- past or present.

This might sound like bizarre advice but here’s how I use something like this. I often find myself being grateful I have a job to go to when so many are unemployed. Believe me, on the days when it’s really hard to drag myself out of bed to go to work it’s always helpful to realize that my life could be worse and that I should be happy to have a job at all. The same thing can apply to your life. Dreading going to school? Try being grateful that you have the benefit of an education when so many in the world don’t. Your mom or dad getting on your nerves? Be thankful that you still have them around because teens who have lost their parents would give anything to have them back. It’s these small shifts in thinking that help us to not only get through tough or annoying moments but to actually (almost) learn to appreciate them. I know it sounds crazy but try it and you’ll see how it can work.

There are so many websites, organizations and studies devoted to the practice of gratitude that I couldn’t possibly list or summarize all of them here. I’m especially fond of, the work of Dr. Robert Emmons and the University of California, Berekley’s Expanding Gratitude project. Google it, find what works for you and explore this concept more.

Being grateful is a simple way to be happier so why wouldn’t you try it?

What are you grateful for today?




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