Do you get crankier when your stress level rises? On the flip side, do you feel joyful after doing a good deed or saying a kind word? If you answered YES and YES, then consider cultivating gratitude to find joy and relieve stress.

The truth is it just feels good to be nice – especially when we are intentional about genuinely bringing joy to others.

Keep in mind, it takes time for new habits to take a hold – just like sticking to an exercise routine or eating healthy. Cultivating gratitude takes practice, planning and dedication, especially if finding time in your busy life is a challenge.

So what do you think? Want to join us in cultivating gratitude, finding joy and relieving stress? Here are five easy steps to get started:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.
Writing things down makes you accountable for your gratitude goals, reaffirms those acts of kindness and brings back joyful feelings when you reflect back at a later date. Journaling is the gift that keeps on giving!

2. Be genuine.
Think about the WHY. WHY are you showing gratitude? The WHY shouldn’t solely be to make you feel good, the primary WHY should be to bring joy to the recipient.

3. Schedule time each day to acknowledge someone you know.
Set a reminder in your calendar to give a gratitude shout-out to someone you know. If it helps, make a list of everyone you are grateful for such as friends, family, colleagues, hairdresser, nanny, mail lady, kid’s teacher, coach – you get the drift.

Gratitude shout-outs can be as simple as a quick text, a written thank you note for a gift or favor, a “How are you doing, just had a great memory of you …” on Facebook or via email or a phone call. We all have five minutes to spare each day if it’s important, right?

4. Show appreciation for strangers.
Compliments go a long way. Period. Whether you admire the manicure of the checkout girl at your local grocery store or admire the blouse, shoes, purse or hairstyle of the woman standing next to you at the pharmacy counter – say a kind word or two. They feel appreciated and your symptoms of stress will subside.

5. Keep a stack of thank you cards and stamps handy.
Your coworker covered for you last week when your kids were sick – leave a thank you note on his desk. Your son’s coach spent extra time teaching him a new skill – send him a note. Your neighbor brought over a bottle of wine because she knows you had a hectic week – open the bottle of wine and write her a note. Easy peasey.