How Being Thankful Makes You Happier
Money may not buy happiness, but science says there is something else that makes you happier than material possessions: gratitude. And while you may not take much time to practice gratitude until November rolls around each year, studies show that appreciating the things you already have all year long has a significant effect on everything from your attitude and mental health to your ability to ward off anxiety and depression.
How does expressing appreciation for the positive things in your life benefit you on a daily basis?
By improving the quality of your personal relationships
University studies have repeatedly shown a link between expressing gratitude and obtaining higher levels of happiness and satisfaction, particularly when it comes to personal relationships. Science shows that, when you hear someone else expressing gratitude, you see better potential for establishing a meaningful relationship with that person. Research also shows a correlation between hearing others express gratitude, or expressing gratitude yourself, and feeling more positive and self-confident.
By keeping you healthy
Expressing gratitude is also good for the body. Those who do so on a regular basis spend less time experiencing physical symptoms and visiting their doctors than those who don’t take time to appreciate the things they have. Practicing gratitude also makes you less likely to report aches and pains and more likely to spend time exercising – which has its own set of positive, mood-boosting effects.
By helping you sleep
Many people find it difficult to stop their minds from racing after a long day. If you count yourself among them, try making a list of everything you feel grateful for as you turn in for bed each night. In doing so, you can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can interfere with sleep patterns and impact the quality of the sleep you do get.
By making you more altruistic and empathetic
A Cornell University study shows that reflecting on your own positive experiences makes you more inclined to help others achieve their own happiness. When you express gratitude for your own life and relationships, you become more engaged and interested in helping others find satisfaction in theirs.
Now that you know the impact of practicing gratitude, how might you go about doing so?
By keeping a gratitude journal
The simple act of writing down what you appreciate can go a long way in terms of keeping these things front-of-mind. Keeping a gratitude journal where you record the good things in your life helps you avoid taking anything for granted. You may also want to reference the journal during tough times, or times of loss, to remind yourself what matters and what you still have.
By teaching the next generation
Some parents try to instill gratitude in their kids by making practicing it a daily habit. Each night at dinner, consider having each family member vocalize what they are most thankful for that day.
By practicing mindfulness
Try to appreciate the little things in life, from the beauty of the great outdoors to the flavors in the food you eat. Taking time to reflect on the people and processes that get clothes on your back, food on your table and a roof over your head makes you more appreciative of their efforts – and more aware of your place in the world with regard to other living things.
While focusing on what others have is unlikely to bring you joy, focusing on others, in general – and focusing on the positive aspects of your own life – certainly can. So, take a few moments each day to reflect on the people you love and the positive experiences you’ve had – and enhance your mental health, physical health, sleep and personal relationships in the process.