What makes us happier and healthier? In previous blogs I explored how sleep can help our memory and immune system and exercising our creativity can reduce medical visits and boost mental health.  Today I'm considering gratitude. Simply cultivating gratitude might sound too easy to be effective but science believes it may have clinical use in helping people with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and depression as well as other psychological conditions. Some research suggests it holds the power to help us cope, get better sleep and reduce stress. It may also help us to set and achieve goals. Most research shows a strong link between gratitude and life satisfaction but there's nothing more persuasive than personal testimony. Listen to the report below of bloggers suffering hardship during a 21 day gratitude challenge.

A growing body of scientific research is exploring the strong link between gratitude, an orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in our lives, and our health and well being. Check out this quick discussion about some of these studies online, by Dr Stephen Wright, and try the two week project he suggests to unleash the benefits of gratitude in your life. Wonder why it works? Neuro Imaging suggests that "...gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits," writes Christian Jarrett at NYmag.com. Recent research out of the University of Chicago and Cornell suggest gratitude is most often found where we experience connection or increased well being rather than in material gains.

What I like most about gratitude is how quickly and easily it can enhance our lives. There are simple exercises, requiring minimal daily time, that help us to cultivate an appreciative outlook and a perspective that sees the positive in our lives. Take the 21 day gratitude challenge portrayed in the video above. Try positive imagining of your future self or think about someone for whom you're grateful. Gratitude is not only a relatively easy shift in perspective it's also pleasant and fun. I'll conclude this blog by expressing my own gratitude to you, dear reader. Thank you for following my blogs. Your readership motivates me to continue writing and inspires me to exercise my creativity. Your interest helps to keep me healthier, happier, and mentally active. Wishing you satisfaction and enjoyment in exploring your own gratitudes!

Update 2014: Forbes on the seven proven benefits of gratitude.

Update October 2014, moving time lapse video with inspiring words from a child and older man. "It's not just another day. It's the one day that is given to you.....today."

Update Jan 2015 The Greater Good website from the University of California at Berkeley posts regular articles on gratitude and its social or health benefits.