What’s the story with gratitude and happiness? It turns out gratitude is one of the most powerful happiness practices. The science shows that people who intentionally practice gratitude experience a whole list of positive benefits including:
- More feelings of well-being and happiness
- More optimism
- Less stress
- More compassion and generosity toward others
- A boost in the immune system
- Improved social connections to the people around you
- Better quality sleep
- Increase in team morale (when practiced collectively)
- Provides protective emotional benefits when major losses occur in your life
All of that sort of blows my mind. You get all that just for taking a few minutes on a regular basis to reflect on what you are most thankful for in your life. It works because it makes us not only think about what’s good but to seek it out on purpose. A teacher of mine says it best, calling that mindset being a “benefit finder”. It also makes us realize that everything that’s good in our lives is connected to other people, to our community or larger world. Realizing the interconnected nature of our lives makes us feel more appreciative for all the people and experiences and places and things in our lives that contribute to the moments of goodness.
So… how do we cultivate more gratitude in our lives? The experts agree on a few ways:
1. The gratitude journal
Honestly, when I even write this, I sort of feel like it’s homework already. Really? Another thing to do? Until… I tried it. And it’s actually pretty amazing how just thinking about what you are thankful for can change your mood. Scientists say to write in your gratitude journal just a couple times a week, not everyday. Everyday somehow works against us a bit, maybe it loses its luster the research isn’t clear, but that 2-3 times a week is the sweet spot for reaping the benefits.
2. Notes of gratitude
This has become much more of a special occasion activity for most of us. Who takes the time to write letters anymore? But when I get a letter, a real heartfelt thank you letter, it makes me feel so special. And you don’t need a special occasion to make this real. Just think about someone in your life who has had an impact on you. A real impact. Then grab a pen and paper and write them a letter telling them how you feel, thanking them. Stick it in the mail or not, you get the brain benefits just by writing it. If you want to make it awesome, hand deliver it and watch them read it. Wow!
3. Intentional acts of saying “thank you”
My Thrive partner, Scott, does this awesome thing on a regular basis. He just calls someone up on the phone with the sole purpose of saying “thank you”, nothing else, no other request or agenda, just a gratitude phone call. It’s genius, and it impacts people in such a profound way. It’s definitely worth a try.
Thank you emails and just a good old plain heartfelt “thank you” to someone who has done something you appreciate is a beautiful daily practice to integrate into your life. It doesn’t take more time, or money or anything, just a little awareness and the attitude that you’re seeing out what’s good and acknowledging it.
Want to dig into gratitude even more?
Robert Emmons is a professor at the University of California Davis and has a great video on the benefits of gratitude here.
He’s also written a well regarded book on the subject here.
David Steindl Rast talks gratitude in this TED Talk.
I wish you a beautiful November. Check out Thrive’s pop-up gratitude experiences this month, we’ll be posting the details on our FB page.