Can Gratitude Make You Happier?
Is it true that offering thanks makes you happier? Yes, in a sense.
A sincere “thank you” might brighten someone’s day, but there’s more to it. Gratitude can also improve your health and well-being. Giving thanks is not a replacement for treatment or other therapies, especially for persons with diagnosable mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Nonetheless, research has connected appreciation to a variety of benefits, including better sleep, enhanced physical health, and stronger relationship relationships.
The term gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratitude. Appreciation comprises two crucial components, according to Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading gratitude scholars. In an article published in Greater Good Magazine, he remarked, “First, it’s an endorsement of goodness.” “We acknowledge that there are good things in the world, that we have been given gifts, and that we have benefited from them.”
“We know that the sources of this kindness are outside of ourselves,” he writes.
Other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us attain the goodness in our lives,” we acknowledge. This recognition can be applied to your current life and circumstances, events in the past (for example, reminiscing on joyful recollections), or the prospect of positive things to come. There is a link between thankfulness and happiness, according to a lot of research.
The connection between gratitude and happiness
Emmons’ research examined the impacts of thankfulness, journaling, and happiness. One group was instructed to write down things they were grateful for, while another was asked to write down annoyances or irritants in their lives, and a third group was asked to write about neutral life events. Participants reported on their mood, physical symptoms, reactions to social support, and overall well-being for nine weeks. Participants in the first group had a more positive attitude, were more optimistic about the future, and spent significantly more time exercising than the other groups at the end of the study.
Participants in a follow-up study raised their journaling frequency from once a week to every day. Participants in the second trial who concentrated on thankfulness reported feeling happier and more positive, as well as better sleep quantity and quality. The subjects weren’t the only ones who observed the benefits of appreciation. Even the individuals’ significant others stated that their spouses’ attitudes had improved.
Gratitude has also been linked to stronger relationships, according to Amie M. Gordon, PhD, a social-personality psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco. She and her colleagues found that those who felt appreciated by their romantic partners were more appreciative of their partners themselves in a 2012 study. Participants were more sensitive to their partners’ needs as a result of the positive thankfulness cycle, which established strong links of commitment within their relationships.
Gratitude isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. Being thankful while you’re having a bad day or dealing with stress or anxiety can be difficult. Practicing thankfulness can help you educate your mind to recognise and appreciate the good things in your life. Here are some suggestions from experts on how to build a grateful mindset.
Journaling about gratitude
Simply jotting down what you’re grateful for on a daily or even weekly basis can help you cultivate a more optimistic attitude. Emmons suggests making a list of things from your history, present, and future for this exercise. When you focus on specific people you’re grateful to have—or have had—in your life, a gratitude diary can be very helpful.
Challenges and frustrations are unavoidable, and they can make it difficult to be appreciative. When confronted with tough situations, M. J. Ryan, an executive coach and author of Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Every Day of Your Life, suggests reframing your attitude.
“When difficult things happen, ask yourself: What’s right about this? Yes, it’s awful, but if something were right about it, what would it be? Look for the hidden blessings in challenges. How have you grown?”
Taking a daily “savouring walk,” in which you take the time to appreciate your surroundings, can also add to our happiness, according to experts at Loyola University Chicago. This is a weekly 20-minute walk that you do alone, ideally on a different route each week. The goal is to notice as many nice sights, sounds, smells, or other sensations as possible while walking.
Participants in the study reported an increase in overall pleasure after taking a savouring walk every day for a week. The exercise helped them identify the positive aspects of their daily lives and settings, resulting in a more cheerful mindset.
You can add a relaxing stroll into your morning or evening commute to work, or look for opportunities to walk to a nearby location where you would normally drive, such as to run an errand, have coffee, or meet up with friends.
A letter of thanks
According to studies done by positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman, PhD, writing a letter to someone who has had a positive impact on your life is another excellent approach to practise appreciation. Consider drafting a letter to someone you may not have properly thanked. Try writing about both broad and specific actions taken by this person, as well as how their actions have benefited you. The letter should be one page long, or approximately 300 words long. If at all possible, researchers recommend reading the message to the addressee in person. Writing a thanksgiving note has been shown to have a good impact on your wellness for several weeks, according to research.
Make it a routine
Ryan suggests incorporating gratitude practice into your daily routine, such as while driving home from work, over dinner with your family, or before going to bed.
“Make visible or audible reminders—a sign, a popup on your computer, or text message reminders,” she advises. “The more routines you establish, the easier it will be to recall them.”
Even when things don’t seem to be going your way, gratitude can help you discover and appreciate positive areas of your life. Gratitude may make you happier and even deepen your relationships with your partner, family, and friends if you practise it on a daily basis.