What single virtue would give you better health, fewer stress symptoms, higher income, better sleep, more energy, larger social networks and a stronger marriage? Gratitude, according to experts in the field. Count your blessings and you will probably live longer than the average grumpy pessimist, they reckon.

And don’t blame your genes if you are grumpy — research has shown that only 50 per cent (that much?) of our mood is determined by our genetics. The rest is largely determined by what we choose to focus on and cultivate.

Dr Robert Emmons, a psychology researcher at the University of California-Davis and one of the leading gratitude researchers in the US suggests a number of practices to make you grateful. They include keeping a daily journal of all the good things in the day; making a promise to yourself to practice gratitude regularly; focusing on the good things others have done for you. You can ask your family and friends to help you replace complaints with expressions of appreciation. Last but not least is trying a little kindness: smiling and helping others leaves less room for pessimistic thoughts. ~ New Zealand Herald, Jan 31

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet