Living in gratitude

With the season of bargain-hunting, over-spending and consumerism at our door, perhaps we should take longer than a moment to focus on making sure we are happy, not just momentary happiness but one that lasts by developing an attitude of gratefulness.

A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who write thank-you letters felt happier for as long as a month after the act. Researchers also found that writing down three positive events each day for a week kept happiness levels high for up to six months.

While expressing thanks to others may seem polite and selfless, the benefits are also self-serving.

Grateful people have four characteristics in common, according to researchers at Eastern Washington University. This happier class of people tends to feel a sense of abundance in their lives, appreciate the contributions of others to their well-being, recognize and enjoy life's small pleasures and acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude.

While these traits may come naturally to some, these are characteristics that can be acquired through practice. Through private or corporate prayer, journaling, or communicating thanks through letters or social media posts, developing habits where one’s mind is focused on appreciation pays off in happiness. Once you’ve given yourself the gift of gratefulness this holiday season, you may find the mindset is contagious and has infected those in your circle of influence.

Choose to give yourself a moment to be thankful for a meal shared with loved ones and neighbors. Take a deep breath and be thankful for the sounds of laughter, boisterous cheering over football games. Be thankful for loved ones with whom to reminisce, share updates and stories.