5 Ways to Express Your Gratitude (and Reap Its Benefits)

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iStock

Bad days happen to the best of us: The alarm doesn't go off, your kids are fussy, you get stuck in traffic, and as soon as you get to work, you spill coffee down the front of your favorite shirt. And then, to add insult to injury, you log onto Facebook and are greeted by the smiling face of your old college roommate, who is just so #blessed. Lucky her.

But is her life really better than yours? It turns out that being grateful for what you have—even if some days, what you have appears to be a disaster—is mostly an exercise in self-reflection. Here are some simple things you can incorporate into your daily routine in order to better appreciate the good things you have going in your life—and doing so, studies have found, can improve your physical and emotional health.

1. KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL.

Gratitude journal on a pink background.
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The task is easy: Each week, take the time to write down and reflect on five things that you're grateful for. "These can be small things, but big things are fine, too," Jo-Ann Tsang, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, says.

A 2003 study by researchers from the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis [PDF], found that students who recorded the things they're grateful for felt better about their lives, exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical problems, were more likely to make progress towards personal goals, and were more optimistic about their upcoming week than students who were tasked with writing down hassles or neutral life events.

For the greatest benefits, focus on people, rather than things, in your journaling, and go into detail about why you appreciate each item. Also, don't feel compelled to journal daily: According to the University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good blog, journaling once per week was found to be more beneficial than daily journaling.

2. DO A 30-DAY CHALLENGE.

Glass jar filled with colorful notes.
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Committing to a full month of reflection not only boosts your gratitude awareness, but gives you the satisfaction of completing a goal. Lisa Ryan, gratitude expert and author of Express Gratitude, Experience Good, suggests writing down three to five things that you're grateful for each day for the next 30 days. As with gratitude journaling, this exercise works best if you're specific. Instead of writing that you're grateful for your husband, Ryan says, "you should write, 'I'm so thankful that Scott cooked a great dinner last night.'"

If you choose to write your list in the morning, you'll set a positive expectation for your day. Writing it in the evening will remind you of the good the day brought, even if it was a particularly hard day to get through. It will also help you fall asleep faster and sleep better, Ryan says.

3. HOST A GRATITUDE PARTY.

Friends toasting around a table.
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If you're going through a hard time, write down the names of the people who have helped you in your life. Then, plan a party in their honor. Amy Newmark, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude, says, "You'll find that in planning your guest list, you'll start noticing how many people are there for you extending a helping hand every day. This will make you more grateful, and you'll feel less alone every day."

4. GAIN SOME PERSPECTIVE.

Man hugging his dog.
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Thinking about the alternatives can help you appreciate what you have, Newmark says. For example, are you stuck emptying the dishwasher again? Think about the fact that you have a warm, comfortable home filled with kitchen appliances. Are you running around in a frenzy, with no time for yourself? Think about how full your life is. "Would you rather not have these errands to do, these kids to drive around, this job that creates all this work?" Newmark asks.

5. SPREAD KINDNESS.

Hands holding a cut-out heart in the air.
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The very fact that you have the ability to do something nice for someone else will make you feel more confident of your own situation, more aware of your own capabilities, and more grateful for the blessings in your own life. Keep a list of the good deeds you perform—it can be as simple as holding a door for someone or letting a mother with a crying child go ahead of you in line at the store, Newmark says.

And find the right "dosage" for you. For some people, doing five kind things on one day each week, rather than doing five good things throughout the week, showed more positive benefits. Others, however, get more of a boost from daily positive activity [PDF].

This story first ran in 2016.

10 Items Under $25 That Will Keep You Warm This Winter

KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon
KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon

If you're someone who finds the freezing temperatures of winter unbearable, even the shortest stints outside can seem like pure torture. But you don't need to spend the next few months dreading every moment you're in your drafty office or outdoors. We looked through Amazon and found plenty of products, ranging from heated scarves to insulated coffee mugs, that will keep you warm without breaking the bank. Check out some of our favorite finds for under $25.

1. Refillable Zippo Hand Warmers; $20

A refillable zippo hand warmer
Zippo/Amazon

There is a long list of unpleasantries that comes along with winter, and being unable to keep your hands warm is definitely near the top of that list. But thankfully, there are these refillable, flameless Zippo hand warmers, which can last for up to 12 hours. All you need to do is remove the burner, add the lighter fluid (which is available on Amazon for $10), place the burner back on, apply a flame, and enjoy the comfort of having warm hands again.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Heated Scarf; $18

A heated scarf
PerfectPrime/Amazon

We have heated gloves, hand warmers, and even heated socks. But what about when your neck gets cold? Enter PerfectPrime’s electric scarf, which comes with two heaters that allow you to swap between low or high heat. All you need to do is hook one of the heaters up to the included USB cord; place both in the inset of the scarf; attach the cord to the power pack, which sits in a small pouch; and enjoy the added warmth. (The power pack isn't included but you can pick one up on Amazon for $27). And when it comes time, the heaters can be removed and the scarf can be thrown in the washer for an easy clean.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mug Warmer; $23

Mug warmer
Vobaga/Amazon

It's hard to stay warm in your home or office when that perfect cup of coffee you just poured yourself goes cold after just a few minutes on your desk. This mug warmer can help prevent that by keeping your drink nice and hot, even if you're away from it for over an hour. Simply hit the “tempering” button to choose your ideal temperature of 104℉, 131℉, or 149℉, and rest your mug on top. And if your distractions take you away for too long, there’s no need to worry as the warmer will shut off after four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

4. USB Hand warmers; $20

hand warmers
Eaterhom/Amazon

If you work in a cold office, forcing yourself to type with freezing hands can seem nearly impossible. But now, you can ensure your hands stay nice and toasty with these super adorable toast hand warmers. Fingerless and with adjustable wrist straps, these plush gloves are one size fits all and perfectly whimsical. All you need to do is slip them on, hook them up to the USB drive on your computer, and enjoy the extra dexterity.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Viking Horns and Beard Beanie; $19

A viking hat
Kafeimali/Amazon

If you're going to be out in the cold, this hand-knit Acrylic beanie, complete with Viking horns and beard, is perfect for bringing a little levity to the bitterness outside. Not only will this winter accessory be a great conversation starter, but the beard and cap will ensure your face and head stay plenty warm. If you aren’t quite feeling the beard—though we really have no idea why you wouldn’t—it’s removable. You can find this beanie in brown, black, and two shades of gray.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Heated mouse; $23

A heated mouse from ValueRays at Amazon.
ValueRays/Amazon

If you don't want to completely cover your hands while working in a chilly office, this heated mouse may be your best bet. It plugs right into your computer through a USB cord and will heat up to 99°F-120°F, allowing you to choose the right level of warmth while avoiding the inevitable sweaty palms that come with wearing gloves indoors. Just remember, this is a mouse designed for work or school—basically anything more casual. If you’re looking to keep warm while doing more precise work (like design work or gaming), check out this heated mouse pad for $33.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Yeti Insulated Mug; $25

An insulated coffee mug from Yeti.
Yeti/Amazon

Pouring yourself a warm drink is the easy part—it’s keeping it warm that gets tricky. And no one wants to rush through their hot coffee or tea just so it doesn’t cool down too fast (think about your poor tongue!). With this insulated mug from Yeti, you can keep your drink warmer for longer, allowing you to sip at your own speed. Yeti is a company known for durability, so this 14-ounce mug is perfect whether you're taking it to the office or on a long hike or camping trip. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hogwarts Scarf; $20

A Hogwarts Harry Potter scarf from Cinereplicas.
Cinereplicas/Amazon

This officially licensed Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf from Cinereplicas is about as authentic to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as you’ll get without an owl delivering you an acceptance letter. The scarf is so faithful to the color scheme from the films that it even uses the same Pantone shades as seen on the screen. The comfy knit feel will keep you warm in the winter, and the movie-accurate design will help it double as part of a costume come Halloween time. For a few dollars more, you can buy scarves based on Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. These Incredibly Warm Socks; $13

Vintage socks from KEAZA sold on Amazon.
KEAZA/Amazon

If you’re working from home—or just taking part in some world-class hygge—you need these incredibly cozy, incredibly versatile socks. You can wear them to sleep on a cold night, keep them on all day like slippers, or wear them with shoes during those early-morning commutes as the thermometers plummet. Best of all, while they’re warm, they’re not suffocating. They’re soft, with enough breathability to prevent your feet from overheating.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Touchscreen gloves; $7-$12

Touchscreen gloves from Amazon.
Achiou/Amazon

Not even the bitter cold should keep you from your Instagram scrolling, and with these touchscreen gloves, you can keep your digits warm without having to sacrifice your social media time. These gloves were made specifically with phones and other gadgets in mind, so while they’re ready to keep you comfortable in winter weather, the material allows you to use your device without worrying that your fingers won’t register on the screen. Plus, the silicone on the gloves will help prevent your phone from slipping from your grip.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Scam Alert: A FedEx Tracking Notification Text Wants to Steal Your Credit Card Number

interstid/iStock via Getty Images
interstid/iStock via Getty Images

Thanks to moment-by-moment tracking software offered by delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office, consumers can keep tabs on their packages before they're even delivered. We’ve grown so accustomed to getting notification texts that it might be easy to let a bogus one slip by.

According to How-To Geek, that could prove to be an expensive mistake. The site is reporting that a scam currently making the rounds involves a fraudulent text notification of an impending FedEx package. The message is prompting recipients to “set delivery preferences” for the delivery. When smartphone users click on the link in the message, they’re directed to what looks like an Amazon satisfaction survey. After completing the survey, users are offered a free gift and then asked to remit their credit card information to pay $6.99 for shipping. This also triggers a monthly subscription charge of $98.95.

Due to the deluge of solicitations for customer surveys prompted by businesses, this is a clever bit of misdirection. Needless to say, it’s also not a legitimate offer. Amazon is unlikely to ever route you to a new URL for a “free gift.” If you’re unsure whether you have a package on the way, it’s a good idea to navigate directly to the FedEx or shipper website to check. It’s also best to block the incoming number to opt out of any future texts offering to separate you from your money.

[h/t How-To Geek]

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