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Practise Gratitude for Greater Optimism


by Victor Perton

Practise Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the underpinnings of optimism. While striving to reach our goals, it’s important to feel grateful for what we have today.

 The science on this is clear. Respected university studies have shown that habits of being consciously thankful make people more optimistic for an extended time and more optimistic about their lives in general.

 Paul Levins told me, “Optimism relies on gratitude. And gratitude is refreshed by optimism."

 The education author and radical optimist Rae Snape, told me, “Gratitude opens one's heart and makes one appreciate the minutiae and detail of life. This openness is the foundation to spotting opportunity and this is the foundation for optimism."

Now, what to do? There are two elements to gratitude practice:

The first is to frequently express your thanks to people.  You know how to do that face-to-face, by phone, email, message your thanks. Do it often and you will feel better.

The second is to record your gratitude on a daily basis.  The best is in the evening before bed and the trick is to read it first thing in the morning before you read anything else.

Daily Gratitude Reflections

Try to make a habit of setting time aside daily to record the good things in your life. Late in the day, sit or lie quietly and spend five to ten minutes contemplating the things that went right for you today. 

Ideally, keep a journal or a pad of paper next to your bed and write about three things that went well today.  

The events you write about do not need to be grand. However, each thing does need to be something for which you are thankful. 

What did you enjoy? What felt good? What lifted your emotions? What made you smile? What made you laugh?  

It could be enjoying the sunrise, a cup of coffee with a friend, a phone call, someone’s praise or receipt of a gift.

Be specific rather than general. For example, “I am grateful that my daughter brought me a cup of tea” is better than “I am grateful for my daughter.”

Once the practice is entrenched, buy a beautiful journal or elegant notebook for this purpose. Of course, some people prefer to keep the record as a file on their computer or smartphone. That’s fine too - whatever works best for you.

 Very Important: Last night’s page should be the first thing you read in the morning, whether you are lying in bed, sitting on the toilet or drinking a cup of tea or coffee. You may be tempted to flip back through previous days, do it; some people have even turned these journals into a book.

Why do this?

 This type of reflection can help you program positive thoughts and images into your mind for the night. It should help you sleep better and wake up more ready to face the new day.

In general, a greater focus on gratitude, saying thank you and feeling more grateful brings higher levels of optimism and positivity.

Rigorous studies demonstrate that gratitude journaling and expressing thanks can increase one’s happiness. It improves mental health, increases happiness, life satisfaction, joy and optimism. In addition, it improves physical health through better sleep, reduced anxiety and lower levels of inflammation.

Dr Kelly-Ann Allen, Educational Psychologist, said to me, “Optimism is more than just thinking that the glass is half full. It’s about knowing that the glass is enough.”

Dr Freya MacMillan shared something very personal, “Gratitude makes me optimistic. Every day I wake, I am thankful. I am grateful for my health, my beautiful family and the opportunities that I’ve been so fortunate to have. I lost my brother when I was 19, he was only 21. He was healthy and happy but didn’t get very long here. For these reasons, I am optimistic in all that I do. I will make sure I live my life to the full in memory of those that did not get the chance.”

Professor Oliver Jones shared a great insight, “For me, Optimism is being grateful for all the things you do have rather than all the things you don’t; and for all the times you succeeded rather than when things went wrong. If you always think you are going to fail, then you probably will, but if you think positively and learn from setbacks rather than get distracted by them, then the sky really is the limit.”

Personally, I keep a gratitude journal and also adopt a group practice of gratitude. At the end of family dinners, we each share three good things that went well during the day.  

The Guru’s Formula for a Gratitude Journal

 Professor Martin Seligman’s authentic formula for this practice is:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause … “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier.”

Gratitude JournalProject Optimism has produced "The Optimist's Gratitude Journal: 100 days to share and develop your gratitude" which is very helpful.


A Sweet Jar of Gratitude?

 Rich Brandt shared another excellent gratitude practice.  

Rich wrote, “Be intentional about being grateful so that it becomes strong enough to counteract the negativity bias. One year, my wife and I kept a huge glass candy jar in our living room with a pen and post-It pad next to it. Every day we would write down one or two things that happened that day that brought us joy. With each passing day, it made a real difference in our awareness of how good we had it.”

 Action: Grab an empty jar, and put a pen and a small pad of paper next to it. Write one thing you are grateful for, fold up the piece of paper and drop it in the jar. Make sure to leave the jar somewhere you will notice it every day.

Hunt for the Good Stuff

 The American army uses a “Hunt for the good stuff” training exercise in which soldiers are encouraged to search for and focus on things for which they are grateful. 

 Action: Take a piece of paper or start a new document on your computer and list the things which make you grateful. Keep it somewhere easily found and go back to that list in a week and see what you can add to it.

A Gratitude Exercise from "The Success Principles (TM) - 10th Anniversary Edition: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be" by  Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer 

"A powerful exercise for building your appreciation muscle is to take 7 minutes every morning to write down all the things you appreciate in your life. I recommend this as a daily ritual for the rest of your life. When you actively seek the positive, you become more appreciative and optimistic, which is a requirement for attracting more good and creating the life of your dreams. Look for the good."

"Developing an attitude of gratitude and appreciating the people you lead returns tremendous benefits. Scientists are now documenting the health benefits from practicing gratitude and are finding that those who consistently acknowledge and thank others have lower levels of stress, are more optimistic, and are less frequently drawn into anger, bitterness, and frustration."

"Begin cultivating your attitude of gratitude, and over time you’ll not only transform your perspective but you’ll also attract other like-minded, optimistic people into your life and your circle of influence."

Lizzy Kuoth on Gratitude in Project Optimism's Habits of an Optimist.


Bruce Everett

 "Being grateful in the present helps me to be optimistic in a great-full future."


Alesha Printz, General Manager - Victoria Division, Engineers Australia

 "Optimism and gratitude go together hand in hand, like two sides of the same coin. Gratitude is the practice of looking back and being thankful. Optimism is the practice of looking forward and being hopeful."

Professor Oliver Jones, Associate Dean, RMIT

"For me, optimism is being grateful for all the things you do have rather than all the things you don’t; and for all the times you succeeded rather than when things went wrong. If you always think you are going to fail, then you probably will, but if you think positively and learn from setbacks rather than get distracted by them, then the sky really is the limit."

Dr Kelly-Ann Allen, Educational Psychologist

"Optimism is more than just thinking that the glass is half full. It's about knowing that the glass is enough"

Louisa Keck, Head of Participation - Reach & Wake by Reach

"What makes me optimistic are finding the small pockets of kindness and good in day-to-day life. Appreciating the moments that make me smile and the ones that take my breath away. Feeling gratitude for the people in my life and excited about the life I get to create with them."

Chris Reddy, Leadership Coach

"What makes me optimistic?  It's pretty simple. It's all about appreciating the small things, accepting the setbacks, grasping opportunities and being grateful for the family and friends in my life."

Tony Holmwood, Senior Consultant Business Applications at Atturra

"Rather than being consumed by problems, an optimist views the world through a completely different lens, one focused on exploring opportunity. An optimist expresses gratitude often."

Elaine Ingalls, Journalist

"I believe that optimism is a choice even when things aren't working out in your favor. Having an attitude of gratitude makes it easier to get through the challenging tasks of daily life and difficult seasons."

Pablo Cilotta, World Commerce and Contracting

"My optimism and happiness are enhanced through expressing gratitude and being passionate when learning new things, meeting new people, building relationships based on trust, confidence and building bridges."

Mike Fairclough, Author of “The Wild Things”

"My optimism is rooted in gratitude for the life that I already have and for my future life imagined and intentionally created."

Sally Branson, Director at The Suite Set

 "For me, optimism has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother. My mum is relentlessly positive, and it is a lovely family trait. Is it nature or nurture people ask? I say - Optimism is a habit, a learned behaviour. Optimism is a choice and a daily practice that stems from being grateful."

Diane Kilkenny, World Commerce and Contracting

"What makes me optimistic?  That random acts of human kindness come from the places you least expect them at the times you need them most!"

Mini Dewan

 "Gratitude means a feeling of appreciation, thankfulness, counting your blessings and considering your smallest achievements as a success. It enriches humans with optimism by allowing to shift focus from what we lack to little pleasures and joys we actually have. It has some really positive and productive effects on us which includes a happy mental and physical state, less stress and a positive aura."

Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D in "Gratitude Can Lift You Up, Even When You’re Down"

"As time passes, practices of gratitude can become habits. The more gratitude you practice, the more happy and optimistic you can become. In this way, your thoughts create your reality. Focus solely on the negative, and you get to live in a world full of unhappiness. Focus at least some of your attention on the positive, and you get to live in a world that also contains happiness."

Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis

"In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events."

William Vanderbloemen

 "Giving thanks is the doorway to true optimism."

 "Studies have shown that a spirit of gratitude and regularly giving thanks can lower our stress, improve our relationships, even improve our overall health. A person who is grateful is motivated to face challenges with optimism. With that, they keep the momentum of motivation going. Perhaps more than any other, a grateful person is a motivated person, and the key to sustained motivation may be regularly giving thanks."

Pastor Tope Popoola in The Force of Gratitude

"The grateful person is hardly ever stranded in the journey of life and destiny. Wherever you find a grateful heart, you will also find hope, joy and an infectious optimism."

Kay Clancy

"We can’t change the past - we can shape the future. A practice that supports me is Gratitude. It allows me to focus on the good and prepares me to look forward with hope, joy and optimism - a powerful combination. The things in life that feel burdensome will frequently, I find, give me moments of reflection and learning - also a cause for hope and optimism. 🧡"


Michael J Fox speaking at New York Comic Con 2022

"I am very optimistic. Optimism is about thinking that things are likely to get better than they are going to get worse. And if you believe in that, you can be grateful for it. If you are grateful for it, you will sustain optimism for the rest of your life."


James Pearson, CEO, City of Joondalup

"Thank you nature for reminding us to be optimistic and prepare the next generation as best we can for the challenges, and opportunities, of tomorrow."


Rebecca Jarvis, HR Business Partner ASEAN & ANZ, Snowflake

"Optimism and gratitude are a powerful combination. When combined we can seize the day and look forward to a future of infinite opportunities."

Donna Bradley, WHS and HR Consultant

"Optimism is maintaining an attitude of gratitude."


Syed Saeed Alam 

"Gratitude is a powerful trait. It softens trials, changes perspectives, elevates attitudes, focuses attention, redirects negativity, empowers us to see more clearly, and expands, widens, lifts, ennobles and deepens the sense of meaning and purpose we discover in life".

"Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”

"Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” 


Neville Christie

"The daily practice of gratitude not only fosters optimism that leads to creativity, but it is the wellspring of innovation that creates a better world for all."

Janice Gobey, Artist and Headhunter

 "Gratitude creates a sense of wellbeing and optimism. Hope and resilience guide you through the tough times. Empathy and kindness create a better and more optimistic world."

Babette Bensoussan MBA

"What makes me optimistic? I am grateful for so many things in my life every day."

Radhika Bhirani in "Be more grateful each day: 6 reasons why gratitude can change your life"

"People who practice gratitude experience greater levels of overall happiness, joy, optimism and enthusiasm."

Ildeme Mahinay Koch in "Starting A New Business From Scratch With Gratitude And Optimism"

"Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to be positive no matter what life throws at them? Optimism is frequently regarded as a genetic trait, similar to being a morning person or having a natural sense of rhythm. This quality is made even more perplexing by the fact that it is difficult to define. I find that gratitude and optimism are related, but while optimism is a positive outlook for the future, gratitude is rooted in the present—an appreciation for what we have right now. Both can serve as guiding principles when starting a new business."



"Research supports the idea that writing down what we are thankful for actually helps improve our spiritual awareness, cognitive flexibility and stress management. It promotes optimism and positive emotions.

"Take a moment to reflect:

  •  Journal a couple of things you are grateful for that occurred in the past week.
  • Think about what your life would be like without a particular person, job or community, as this promotes a recognition of the gifts you have been given.
  • Look for the unexpected surprises in life.
  • Keep a list of answers to prayer as a source of encouragement for the future.
  • Prayer of faith: Thank God for the people in your life now and in the past. Thank God for all the things in your life that you are grateful for.


Laura Hills in “Fostering a Culture of Gratitude in Your Medical Practice

“Practicing gratitude has benefits that extend beyond the individual’s personal health and wellbeing. Grateful employees experience boosts in dopamine, resulting in fewer sick days, greater optimism, increased self-esteem, and increased energy at work.”


Cara Goodwin, Ph.D. in “Raising Grateful Children”

“Research finds that gratitude in children is associated with greater happiness, life satisfaction, and emotional well-being; and increased optimism, life satisfaction, and fewer negative emotions.”


Kathleen M Marriott in "The Science of Optimism: Developing a Positive Outlook."

"A tangible way to start cultivating optimism is by writing down three good things that happen daily."



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