We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s the little things in life that matter”. But day-to-day, how often do you find yourself obsessing over what you don’t have, instead of noticing the little things right in front of you that bring you joy?

Taking time to appreciate the little things in life that make you happy is a great way to improve your mood and promote feelings of wellbeing.

In fact, scientific research suggests that people who express gratitude regularly, experience lower levels of depression, higher levels of self esteem and have better immune health.

Andrea Huffington of the Huffington post summarises it nicely:

"Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation."

Fortunately you don’t have to be a born optimist to practice gratitude, it’s a habit you can cultivate over time. Here are three tips to get you started.

1. Write down what you're grateful for

Gratitude journalling isn't just about nice looking stationary. The simple act of writing down a couple of things that you're grateful for each day can have a profound impact on your mental health. 

Some studies show that gratitude journalling can even reduce heart disease, lower tendencies towards materialism and promote healthy eating.

Maybe it's just a small thing like the smell of fresh rain outside, a cosy pair of socks on a cold day, or catching up with a friend you've not spoken to in a while.

"writing down a couple of things each day
t
hat you're grateful for can have a
profound impact on your mental health"
 


You could also try sharing a few things that you're grateful for with someone else, as research has found it can help strengthen relationships. 

2. Focus on your breathing

"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body," writes Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. 

Breathing is the greatest leveller, as it's something all living things share. It's also the best form of self care.

When we slow down our breathing, we are able to take stock of the world around us and enjoy the moment more. (You can read more about the benefits of mastering the moment in our earlier blog post).

"Breathing is the greatest leveller...
it's also the best form of self care"


Yet we don't all breathe as we've evolved to do so. 
In the US, roughly 70% of the population identify as mouth breathers as opposed to nose breathers.

Breathing through your nose has a multitude of benefits, including the release of nitric oxide, which helps to widen the blood vessels in the body and increase oxygen circulation. This can help you feel calmer and less stressed.

Unsure where to start with breathing correcting? Then take a look at author Patrick McKeown's talk on the Ted X stage where he explains why 'shutting your mouth can change your life'. 

3. Go for a sensory walk

Many apps like headspace offer guided intention walks when you can switch off your thinking brain and focus on the sights, sounds and smells around you. It's also a great thing to do with kids or when you're walking the dog. 

Even if you live in a busy urban area, paying attention to the sounds of nature around you - like evening birdsong or the crunch of leaves underfoot, can help you stay present in your surroundings and spark your curiosity for the world around you. 

What are the little things that you're grateful for? Share your tips with us on Instagram @BU_Lifestyle