Did you know there is a science behind gratitude and how it can change your life for the better in many surprising ways?
Gratitude is a feeling of happiness that comes from appreciation
Thinking about all you have to appreciate can boost your happiness and your overall sense of well-being, according to psychologists. An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis, for both the big and small things alike. Here are some reasons why you might want to adopt and cultivate your own attitude of gratitude.
You can be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. And gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie.
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Where do I begin?
Freshen up your thanks
The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for every day. Gratitude journaling works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t keep your brain on alert for fresh grateful moments. Get specific by writing “Today my husband gave me a shoulder rub when he knew I was really stressed” or "My sister invited me over for dinner so I didn’t have to cook after a long day." And be sure to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you. Opening your eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice. Make a game out of noticing new things each day.
Get real about your gratitude practice
Being excited about the benefits of gratitude can be a great thing because it gives us the kick we need to start making changes. But if our excitement about sleeping better because of our newfound gratitude keeps us from anticipating how tired we’ll be tomorrow night when we attempt to journal, we’re likely to fumble and lose momentum. When we want to achieve a goal, using the technique of mental contrasting—being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be – leads us to exert more effort. Recognise and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way. For instance, if you tend to be exhausted at night, accept that it might not be the best time to focus for a few extra minutes and schedule your gratitude in the morning instead.
University of Rochester partners in crime Edward Deci and Richard Ryan study intrinsic motivation, which is the deep desire from within to persist on a task. One of the biggest determinants is autonomy, the ability to do things the way we want. So don’t limit yourself—if journaling is feeling stale, try out new and creative ways to track your grateful moment. For example you could create a gratitude jar. Any time you experience a poignant moment of gratitude, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. On New Year’s Eve, empty the jar and review everything you wrote. When a good thing happens, you can now exclaim, “That’s one for the gratitude jar!” It immediately makes the moment more meaningful and keeps us on the lookout for more.
Be social about your gratituide practice
Our relationships with others are the greatest determinant of our happiness. So it makes sense to think of other people as we build our gratitude. Robert Emmons suggests that focusing our gratitude on people for whom we’re thankful rather than circumstances or material items will enhance the benefits we experience. And while you’re at it, why not include others directly into your expression of gratitude? One activity involves writing a gratitude letter to someone who had an impact on you whom you’ve never properly thanked. You could also share the day’s grateful moments around the dinner table. The conversations that follow may give you even more reasons to give thanks.
Incorporating gratitude into your life is both easy and worthwhile. What are you grateful for today?
(from an article by Derrick Carpenter, MAPP, for Happify)
The social benefits of gratitude are especially significant
A study of more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits, including:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated
The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. Think of it as a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
10 More Ways to Be a More Thankful Person
For years researchers have been publishing studies about the effectiveness of an intervention that produces positive outcomes in nearly every arena of health and wellbeing. They have discovered that it boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, makes you feel more optimistic, decreases depression, improves your love life, and helps you cope with even the most life-threatening crisis. Plus, it’s available to everyone, with no physical effort, and it’s totally free. This magic therapy is gratitude, and you can start collecting its benefits today. Ten tips how.