Ever tried writing a gratitude journal? It's a beautiful idea - every day, take a few minutes to write down 3 things you're grateful for. After all, it is not happiness which necessarily makes us grateful; but rather gratitude which makes us happy.

The struggle I have with this practice is that I am a person who lives very much in my mind. For much of my life it has seemed that my body is barely attached to my awareness at all, and my emotions rise to my conscious noticing from time to time before receding beyond my thoughts again. This means that I sit there writing the things I think I must be grateful for, rather than the things I feel grateful for. I fill reams with these lists, while remaining unmoved myself.

If you find that this familiar gratitude practice is enough for you to increase your mindfulness and happiness, then that is wonderful. Stick to it. But if journalling feels like a chore or writing lists keeps you stuck in your mind, then consider this simple variation on gratitude.

  • as you lie in bed before sleep, turn your mind to reflect on the people and events you are grateful for from that day and more broadly
  • expand on the details of the reasons for your gratitude until you fall asleep
  • during the day, focus on the people  you feel grateful towards 
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    pick one specific person and find a way to communicate your gratitude to them - a text, email or card expressing what they mean to you is guaranteed to make their day and expand your happiness, and takes no longer than writing a gratitude list

This practice of not just identifying our gratitude but also expanding and expressing it ensures that you get out of your head and into the emotion of gratitude. The side effect? You get to make someone else's day too.

Let me know in the comments - how will you express your gratitude today?

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