As the author of books on mental strength, people often ask me for the fastest and simplest way to build mental muscle. The answer: experience and express gratitude every day.
In addition to building mental strength, studies show the benefits of gratitude range from better sleep to increased longevity. Research also shows grateful people tend to be 25 percent happier than everyone else.
When it comes to boosting gratitude, the most common advice is, “Identify three things you’re grateful for every day.” But, simply listing the things you’re grateful for (out loud, in your head, or in a gratitude journal) can feel mundane. And if expressing thanks becomes just one more thing to check off your to-do list, you won’t incite feelings of genuine gratitude.
To prevent gratitude from feeling like a chore, mix things up a bit. Here are some simple but creative ways to practice gratitude.
1. Create a gratitude New Year’s Resolution.
Instead of making a traditional resolution that involves hitting the gym or giving up junk food, establish a gratitude habit. Write down one thing you’re grateful for on a slip of paper every day and place it in a jar.
Then, next New Year’s, take all of those slips of paper back out of the jar and read them. Reviewing all the good things you encountered over the course of the year will remind you of all the good you have in your life.
2. Build a gratitude bulletin board.
Building a visual representation of the things you’re grateful for can serve as a good reminder to be thankful–which can be especially helpful when you’re feeling down.
Write down what you’re thankful for on a sticky note and post it to a wall in the house. Or, pin notes with simple words and phrases, like “sunshine” or “Mom” to remind you of the things and people you have to be grateful for.
3. Write a gratitude letter.
While it’s important to be thankful for the things, it’s even more important to be grateful for the people in your life. And if you send a letter sharing your gratitude, the recipient will experience a boost in their psychological well-being too.
Identify someone you’re grateful for. Write a letter that explains why you’re grateful for them. Be as specific as possible. If you can, hand deliver the letter and read it to the recipient. You might even make it a habit to share a gratitude letter on a regular basis, like once a month.
4. Make a collage that depicts the things you’re grateful for.
Seeing what you’re grateful for in pictures can be a great way to help you stay focused on the positive. Create a collage, either with pictures you’ve taken or with magazine photos that depict the things you appreciate.
Put your collage on a wall or create a scrapbook. Add to it regularly and spend time looking over all the things you feel grateful for.
5. Create a gratitude folder for the office.
While gratitude might seem like something you practice in your personal life, you may want to incorporate more gratitude into your work life too. It can boost your mood in the office to be reminded of all that you have to be thankful for–personal and professional.
Create a gratitude folder to keep in your desk. Fill it with pictures or notes of things that you’re thankful for in your life. When you’re tempted to grumble about work, take a minute to look through your gratitude folder and you might feel better about your life.
Make It a Fun Habit
If your gratitude practice grows a little stale, mix things up a bit. Experiment with different strategies and keep in mind that what works one month, might not work the next. But no matter what you do, keep practicing gratitude. It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your life.
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Originally published on Inc.com.