Because of your brain's naturally negative bias, you tend to notice what's wrong easier than you notice what's right. But you can override that tendency fairly easily. Simply find a system that reminds you to look for what you appreciate.
Here's one such system: Put five pennies in your left pocket at the beginning of the day. Make five good acknowledgments or thank-you's during the day. Every time you make a one, move a penny from your left pocket to your right.
Having this game keeps you on the lookout for what you appreciate. Which means it keeps your attention focused on the good stuff. And when you find something and express your appreciation, you'll feel even better.
To maximize the impact of an acknowledgment, follow these guidelines:
1. Be specific. People have a tendency to write off general acknowledgments as merely someone "being nice." But when you talk about something specific the person did and how you specifically feel about it, you make your appreciation almost impossible to write off.
2. Talk about what the person did. If you acknowledge an action, you're acknowledging something she had a choice about. If you acknowledge her height, it doesn't mean as much because she didn't have any choice in the matter.
3. Talk about what you feel. Describe your feelings about what the person did. This is what really makes your thank you meaningful.
One of the most important things you can do to become happier is say thank you, show your gratitude, and give good acknowledgments often.
You know this already. But could you do better at it? Starting today? Try it, and then leave a comment letting us know how it worked (did it make your day more enjoyable?) and what worked best.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.