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How to practice gratitude if you hate affirmations

If daily affirmations aren't for you, happiness coach Marta Rus shares how you can practice gratitude without them

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26 February 2024
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We’ve all heard about affirmations, those uplifting nuggets of wisdom that help reshape our mindset and claim to kickstart positive change, but while affirmations can be powerful in reframing your attitude to life, there's a lot more that goes into gratitude than a daily 'I am thankful for…' mantra – cue a sigh of relief from people who hate the idea of reciting daily affirmations in the mirror.

HELLO! spoke to happiness coach Marta Rus about why gratitude is such a game changer when it comes to happiness, and how we can incorporate it into our lives without cringing at ourselves.

"Let's not limit gratitude to an affirmation," she says. "Instead, let’s make it an integral part of our daily experiences. After all, in a world that often rushes by, taking a moment to say 'thank you,' can be a revolutionary act of self-love."

woman in blazer and jeans sitting on a stool
Marta Rus is a happiness coach

Why does gratitude make us happy?

"Gratitude isn’t just a warm and fuzzy feeling. It's backed by science - and it has the power to transform every area of our life," says Marta. "Gratitude can free us from toxic emotions, reduce anxiety and cancel out fear by keeping our stress hormones in check. It can help us live longer and healthier lives, boost our immune system and ensure a good night's sleep, leaving us with more energy.

"But that's not all – gratitude, being the ultimate empathy booster, turns us into better friends and partners," Marta continues.

Rewiring our brains

"When we express or receive gratitude, our brain releases the happy chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which act as natural mood boosters. Gratitude also changes the neural structure in our brains. When giving thanks becomes our daily habit, we create and strengthen new neural pathways (our brain’s information highways) and develop a lasting positive mindset."

Mature businesswoman looking out of window© Getty
We should look for gratitude every day

Think your way to a happier life

"The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel," Marta explains. "Our thoughts and the beliefs we attach to them create our reality; they shape our thinking, actions and, ultimately, our lives. We are what we (repeatedly) think."

INSPIRATION: I'm a recovering pessimist – here's how I turned my life around 

Beyond affirmations

To practice gratitude, you don't need to perform daily affirmations, confirms Marta. "Think of gratitude as a way of living, not a routine. This is your invitation to make gratitude an integral part of your life - much like your morning coffee, or even breathing!"

1. Kill the negative bias

"Our brains are naturally wired towards negativity. It’s a survival tactic that kept us alive when danger meant something with sharp teeth. But now, in the jungle of modern life, the negativity bias doesn’t always work in our favour.

"To reverse it, cultivate and focus on the good things in life, no matter how big or small. This way you re-train your brain to focus on the positive and create more daily joy."

Young woman contemplating outdoors© Getty
Taking a moment to feel grateful each day can make us happier

2. Mindful appreciation

"Ever take a moment to truly enjoy a cup of coffee or appreciate the warmth of the sun on your face? Being fully present and acknowledging the beauty around you regulates your nervous system and brings in a sense of calm."

 DISCOVER: How to bounce back from an unlucky day 

3. Gratitude in challenges

"Life sucks. Or does it? When the going gets tough, gratitude helps reframe our perspective. Let’s flip the script and become grateful for the challenges life throws our way. They are often blessings in disguise - rejection is redirection, ‘mistakes’ are lessons that fast-track our growth, and closed doors are an opportunity for an exciting new start. Challenges aren’t roadblocks - they guide you to a better path."

4. Express gratitude

"Don't keep it all to yourself! Gratitude is best shared. Whether it's a simple thank you note or a heartfelt conversation, sharing gratitude uplifts others and deepens your own sense of thanks."

Marta shares gratitude advice on Instagram
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5. Don't worry if you miss a day

It’s perfectly normal to feel an entire array of emotions and not feel remotely grateful for anything sometimes. It’s what makes us human. Gratitude simply helps us put these emotions in a better perspective.

Read more from Marta on Instagram and visit HELLO!'s Happiness Hub for inspiration on living a happier life.

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