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It turns out that counting your blessings isn't the best way to practice gratitude. The best way to feel feel grateful and to be at peace may be through storytelling.

In a surprising series of studies, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine (among others) have discovered that an important way to practice gratitude, to feel at peace, is through storytelling.

The right kind of narrative can change your brain and put you into a happier place. It seems we're wired to react to stories in which we helped one another, where we thanked someone, or where someone thanked us. These things not only made us feel good at the time, they can make us feel good when we remember them.

Unlike other practices such as mediation or breathing work, the positive effects of a storytelling gratitude session are often felt within a minute. Yes, just sixty seconds.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. –Albert Einstein

Our brains respond quickly to stories about experiencing empathy, or about sympathy for someone who received help. This narrative-style gratitude technique can help to reduce anxiety and fear, increase resilience, and, surprisingly, even help to decrease inflammation in the body.

How do you do it? Here are a few easy steps for practicing gratitude this new way:

  1. Think about a story in which someone gave you help or where you received thanks.

  2. Write a few notes about the story, what the help was, and how it made you feel.

  3. Reflect on the story, connecting with it for a few minutes.

For the work to be effective, you must genuinely and emotionally connect to the story, and reflect on how it made you feel.

The benefits of pacticing true gratitude are huge. It can make you more resilient to trauma, it can enhance your social relationships, and it can cause a physiological shift in your heartbeat and breathing.

Remember the time when you were having a rough day and your daughter left you a note by your beside saying "I love you" along with a scented candle? That's an example of gratitude in action, and something worth remembering.

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