Gratitude is scientifically proven to provide many unusual and surprising benefits, including better health and deeper sleep. It can give you more confidence and make your employees happier and more productive.

Why is gratitude so important? Scientists aren't exactly sure, but it seems rooted in the idea that positive thoughts and feelings generate more positive thoughts and feelings. In short, you can create your own whirlwind of optimism.

Like Buddha said, "The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character."

But how do you "practice gratitude"? What habits can you develop?

Here's a list of 6 practical ways to get started. Choose the one that feels right-one that you can stick with. The last thing you need is another chore looming on your "to do" list.

Take the first step and get started. You've got nothing to lose, and-according to science-lots to gain.

If you like efficiency...go to Gratitude Challenge. You can participate in a "a 21-day challenge created to help you take note of the brighter side of life."

The site offers several easy and fun ways to work the challenge, such as downloading a printed calendar with daily suggestions.

The calendar is divided into categories such as "Be grateful for what you have" and "Be grateful for everything around you."

It's a no-brainer, because there are specific directions for each day, such as "Take a picture of one thing, person, place or specific moment that makes you feel grateful. Share it with your social network."

All you have to do is complete the task.

If you like'll find a selection at KindSpring. You can join an existing 21-day challenge or host your own.

Challenges on this site aren't limited to Gratitude, you can also participate in Kindness Communities, Pay-it-forward Games, and other unique possibilities.

For example, there's "Positively Facebook"-where you make one positive post each day. Or, you can check out "Gratitude Glue"-where you come up with creative ways to express thanks.

The site also offers "kindness articles" and ideas to inspire thought and action. They group ideas into intriguing categories such as "For the elderly," "For the environment," and "Under 5 dollars."

If you like to keep things simple...go to Positivethinking-toolbox.

This site offers hassle-free suggestions, such as:

  • start a gratitude list and add 5 new things to it every day for 30 days
  • look up and post a new quote about gratitude on social media every day for 30 days (or, you can print them and pin them on a bulletin board)
  • repeat a gratitude affirmation a several times each day for thirty days.

There are samples of gratitude affirmations at Free Affirmations or at Affirm Your Life. Use one as is or as a starting point to craft your own.

If you want easy access...check out social media sites.

All of them have gratitude challenges that you can join with a few clicks on your tablet or phone. Search for them on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Some even get more specific, like challenges designed for married partners.

If you'd like a more circumspect Local Adventurer they published a list of 52 short, thought-provoking prompts that you can ponder each week for a year.

For example, "Things you use everyday," "Favorite spot in your city," and "Something you took for granted."

Write a paragraph, a page, or more about each prompt in a gratitude journal. Or, jot a few notes on a slip of paper and pop it into a gratitude jar.

If you want to extend the concept to your workplace...check out Wild Apricot. They have some inspiring ideas to get your team or organization on the gratitude challenge bandwagon.

It's good business to say thanks to clients and customers, so why not orchestrate a more formal approach that you can stick to day after day and year after year? If gratitude can work miracles for you, think of the good it can do for your business.

If none of the above hits home, a quick online search of "gratitude challenge," "gratitude journal," or "gratitude ideas" will give you countless ways to count your blessings.