Gratitude lists – are the benefits too good to be true?

Most people will be aware of phrases such as count your blessings, look on the bright side or even the really helpful “it could always be worse!” that aim to remind us that life isn’t all bad.

When you’re feeling down or demotivated hearing this advice can be far from helpful. It can be really, really difficult to find something to be grateful for when it feels like everything around you is going wrong.

Furthermore, the advice to make a list of things you are grateful for can also feel slightly superficial and leave you asking how such a small behaviour could ever really make a difference.

Well, you may be surprised to know that evidence shows that taking the time to note down 3 things that you are grateful for each day has been scientifically proven to improve our mood and wellbeing.

The “founding father” of positive psychology Dr Martin Seligman and his team at the Positive Psychology Center and the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a randomised control trial in 2001 to explore the benefits of gratitude on depression.

By simply writing down 3 things that went well that day and why they went well, they found that this exercise helped to improve mood after just one week.

The 3 things do not need to be groundbreaking. They can include anything from “felt the sun on my face” to “got a promotion at work”.

All that matters is that you purposefully identify good things from each day.

Why does this work? You may have heard the saying “what you focus on, grows“. By mindfully noting down 3 good things at the end of each day, this leads us to actively look for things within each day to be grateful for so that we can add it to our list later that day. Once we start looking out for these things, we become more and more aware of how much there is to be grateful for.

Have you found writing gratitude lists useful? What are your 3 things to be grateful for today? I’d love to hear what they are – comment below or find me on Twitter or Instagram @makingitmindful.

Thanks as always for reading.


Chrissy x

Further info:

Authentic Happiness by Dr Martin Seligman

Claire’s story

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