Practising gratitude is one of the surefire ways to increase your happiness. But just thinking grateful thoughts might not be enough. One study suggests we should focus on the imminent end of the things we're grateful for — to boost our happiness and enhance our gratitude.
That might sound counterintuitive and depressing. Who wants to think about something they enjoy ending soon? Doing so, though, helps us avoid "gratitude burnout", when what we enjoy now becomes too familiar or routine.
A published a few years back in Psychological Science found that students who were asked to think about their last six weeks of school as short and keep a gratitude journal were significantly more likely to feel happier at the end than those who were encouraged to think about the time as long. PsyBlog reports:
…being encouraged to think grateful thoughts was not enough to increase happiness.
What made the grateful thoughts beneficial was focusing on the imminent end of this pleasurable experience.
Thinking about endpoints as a way of stimulating gratitude can be beneficial.
Finite ends seem to inspire people to think carefully about what it is they have, because soon enough, and usually sooner than we would like to think, it will be gone.
Thinking of the finite nature of all things — especially life — can also help us seize the day. "Life is short" and all that jazz.