By Emily C. Johnson | November/December 2014

SAY GRACE: Noticing little bits of good fortune can pay off big time in happiness.

You’ve been told to count your blessings more times than you can, yes, count. But who has 20 minutes to meditate on all the good in life when there are more pressing things to stress over, like blizzard-related flight delays? “There is an evolutionary advantage to focusing on the negative—your body and brain want you to pay attention to potential threats so you stay safe. But research shows that our mood improves when we dwell on gratitude,” says Erin Olivo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in New York City and author of Wise Mind Living.

Better yet: Taking just a second to be thankful when good comes your way can turn you into a full-time optimist. Olivo calls these time-outs “micro-gratitude moments.” They can keep your mood elevated all day, even trouncing anxiety and depression, research shows. Here’s how to rewired your brain to life-is-beautiful setting.

Think really small – and take notice.

Picking up on the positive in your life doesn’t mean waiting for something amazing to happen. “It’s about the small things—whenever you find yourself smiling, really take in why,” Olivo says. “When you push the button for the elevator and it opens right away, notice that ‘Yesss!’ that goes through your head.” Give those mini high points the same attention that you give a missed train home and you’ll be grinning instead of wincing in annoyance. You can even jot them down and refer back to and reflect on. After a few weeks of adding to your good-stuff list, the practice of noticing serendipity will become second nature. It’s like building a positivity muscle!

Set a timer.

“Program a reminder on your phone to go off three times a day, prompting you to make note of little things that have made your happy,” Olivo says. Or pick a daily trigger, like heating up your lunch, and take stock then. If you haven’t yet tallied any tickled-pink moments, pause to remember your smoother-than-usual commute—or treat yourself (e.g., with a YouTube video like “Pughuahua Eats Watermelon”) so you have something to smile about.

Go to sleep happy.

“Bank these positive minutes, and you’re more likely to think to yourself at night, Today was a good day, and mean it,” Olivo says. Sweet dreams!