Why you’re doing gratitude wrong

Here’s a short and sweet Monday insight for you.

One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear about how to be happier is to write down three things you’re grateful for every day.

And look, this advice is kind of right.

Yes, there have been lots of studies that have shown that people feel happier when they write down three things they are grateful for each day. However, those studies were conducted over a short period. Mostly, over 2-3 weeks.

Here’s the problem: what makes us happy in the short term doesn’t usually make us happy in the long term. This is because of something called the “hedonic treadmill”: sooner or later we start to take things for granted, even if they made us really happy to begin with.

(Thankfully, the hedonic treadmill works in the reverse direction too: over time, we adapt to adverse circumstances and start feeling happier again.)

But there is a way to make gratitude work for you in the long term!

It’s really simple. Ready? Here it is: write down three things you’re grateful for once a week.

In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses her own research into gratitude, which found that participants who practiced gratitude only once a week achieved lasting happiness gains, while those to did it every day returned to their original happiness levels after about a month.

After six days of not practicing gratitude, writing down three things you’re grateful for still feels novel enough to have a positive effect on your mood.

Want to know more? Check out The How of Happiness, which is jam-packed with easy ways to boost your happiness levels.

(P.S. Bonus tip, also from The How of Happiness: what goes for gratitude goes for chocolate, too. We enjoy chocolate – and other delicious foods – most if it has been at least a week since we last ate them. You’re welcome.)

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You probably already know whether you're a "morning lark" or a "night owl".

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