(CNN)Logically speaking, we should be in a perpetual state of gratitude. Most people who read this column, even if they aren't fully aware, have a long list of blessings to count (most of the time, anyway). Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic. For all the challenges and deep loss this year has delivered around the world, there is much left over to embrace.
Another reason to be thankful? It's good for you
Family. Friends. Love. Health. Freedom from war and natural disaster. Imagination. Community. A roof over our heads. Common decency. Hope. Opportunity. Memories. Financial stability. Favorite places. Days off work. Good weather. The golden age of television. Books. Music. Ice cream. Weekends. A friendly exchange. Something good that happened today. Something bad that didn't happen today. A good cup of coffee.
You may not have everything you want or even need, but that probably leaves buckets -- nay, container ships -- full of tangible and conceptual items for which to be grateful. Things can always be better, but they can always be worse. It often depends on how you look at that proverbial glass of water.
To get in better touch with gratefulness, all you have to do is find easy ways to count blessings more often than, say, over an annual turkey dinner. Keep them boiling on the front burner of your mind, and you increase your appreciation of life.
What keeps us from longer and more frequent visits to a grateful (and graceful) mental place is that we think about other things. In fact, we are wired to. Our primitive brains smartly evolved the capacity to quickly sense potential threats, to keep us safe. But in a post-saber-toothed-tiger era, we get easily annoyed, worried and distracted by a lot of extraneous noise.
Instead, we need more focus on the positive, And you don't have to set the bar high. Allow yourself to be thankful for the small, mundane things that give you joy and meaning, as well as the big ones. And don't try to gather heaps of blessings to count; a handful each day should do it.
In his play "Two Trains Running," August Wilson wrote, "You walking around here with a ten-gallon bucket. Somebody put a little cupful in and you get mad 'cause it's empty. You can't go through life carrying a ten-gallon bucket. Get you a little cup. That's all you need. Get you a little cup and somebody put a bit in and it's half-full."
Here are some low-threshold habits and traditions to institute that will fill that little cup right up. And a number of reasons you should bother to do so.
The most obvious reason to boost your gratitude is that it's closely tied to increased feelings of happiness. The studies backing that up are not surprising. What's remarkable is that scientists who have located thoughts of gratitude in the brain found that not only do they produce feelings of pleasure, they stimulate areas regulating stress.
This makes intuitive sense. Be more aware of what you feel is good in your life, and you will feel good. Also, if you're sufficiently grateful, you're less likely to compare yourself to others, which is often the enemy of happiness.