You might think ungrateful people are happy because they are selfish, and when you care little about others, you’ve got more time and energy to spend on number one. The truth, though, is thankfulness is a gift that gives to its owner. It has the power to increase your well-being and satisfaction. Here’s how to boost your gratitude muscle with a full mental workout.

Look for good intentions

Grateful people have bigger areas of the brain responsible for figuring out people’s intentions than their less grateful counterparts. They usually consider people mean well. Although they might have a genetic advantage, studies show you can think more like a grateful person by looking for potential altruistic motives for people’s actions.

Imagine you’re grateful

In one study participants, gratitude increased after an exercise in which they imagined they felt thankful. During the experiment, subjects pretended people were kind to them when they were in need.

You can boost your gratitude too by fantasizing you have reasons to be grateful. Better still, count your real blessings. Notice how lucky you are, and your appreciation will grow.

Recognize gifts

Research shows people who think they deserve gifts and compassion experience little gratitude. They often overlook acts of kindness and fail to reap the rewards of knowing people have gone out of their way to please them.

Focus on recognizing times when people are kind to you. When you notice someone’s thoughtful, say thanks too. Acknowledge your gratitude verbally and experiencing it another time will be even more comfortable. New neural connections will form in your brain that accommodates appreciation.

Witness acts of generosity

What you focus on grows, so watching movies and reading literature about people who have been kind to others will give your gratitude muscle a workout. Feel-good chemicals will flow in abundance if you train your mind to recognize benevolence, even if you’re just witnessing someone being generous to a stranger via a clip on YouTube.

Don’t focus on what you haven’t got

Materialism, envy and other negative qualities like cynicism and conceit steal joy and gratitude. You’ll be more thankful if you stop considering what you haven’t got or noted people’s flaws. Focus on positivity and gratitude will flow.

Express gratitude in writing

Each day, choose someone you feel grateful to have in your life and write or type them a letter of thanks. Sometimes you might keep the letter to yourself. At others, you may decide to post it to the recipient in question.

You can also start a gratitude journal in which you write about events you appreciate every day. You’ll train your brain to seek as many reasons as possible to be thankful.

Some people are born grateful but don’t worry if you don’t feel the same. You can boost gratitude in the ways mentioned. As a result, your thankfulness will expand until it’s easy to find.

To learn more about the author: Aneetra Alford