Celebration, appreciation, and gratitude are key ingredients for increasing our personal happiness – especially during tough times and challenging changes. Research in the burgeoning field of happiness and Positive Psychology is showing that counting our blessings, aligning our work and life to more frequently play to our strengths, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is vital.

In “20 Weeks to Happiness,” Richard Handler reports on, “…a two-month experimental comparison conducted by psychologists Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, volunteer subjects who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week than subjects who recorded neutral life events or hassles as I’d done for years.”

Most of us need to keep working at building gratitude skills and habits. Here are a few tips and techniques from Growing @ the Speed of Change:

  • On your own or with your spouse, wrap up your day just before going to bed by recounting at least three accomplishments or highlights of that day. This is especially important when you’ve had a bad day. Fall asleep feeling good about yourself and your situation. This can also be a great family exercise around the dinner table.
  • Develop and keep expanding your Blessings and Brag list. List every accomplishment, strength, and success you’ve ever had or thing you’re grateful for. Make it as long as possible and keep it growing. Review the list whenever you’re feeling down on yourself, anxious, or a little sour.
  • Take a “bliss break” by making a list of all the little things that you really enjoy. It’s a fun exercise. Indulge yourself in activities on your list, which can run to many pages once you get started.
  • Make a gratitude visit. Pick a person in your life that you’d like to thank. Write this person a letter outlining how he or she helped you. After you’ve written it, call the person and ask to visit. Read the letter aloud when you are face-to-face.
  • Study art, design, or natural wonders. Look with awe at the details, creativity, or beauty.
  • Stop and treasure every accomplishment and success for yourself, loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Go out for dinner, take time off, send a personal note, raise a glass, give flowers, or buy the coffees.

Summer holidays are a perfect time to step back from our daily crazy-busy schedules and reflect on our journey. The University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness web site is filled with questionnaire’s to help your reflections. Once you’re registered (it’s free), take the very short and simple Gratitude Questionnaire to assess how you’re doing.