Gratitude or thankfulness is an appreciation for what one receives, tangible or intangible. With gratefulness, one acknowledges the goodness that people have in their lives.
Robert Emmons, one of the best-known researchers on gratitude defines it as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”
Expressing gratitude for the things you have and the things you receive makes you happier — as science shows.
Can Gratitude Make You Happier
Is there any link between gratitude and happiness? Can thankfulness make you happier?
- When you’re thankful, you take maximum note of the gifts of life. You take immense pleasure in their presence in your life.
- Gratefulness also indirectly appreciates your accomplishments – the things you’re thankful for, are the very things you’ve achieved in your life.
- Thankfulness also breeds generosity in us, as was found in a study. The study pointed out that people who were thankful towards their benefactor were generous towards strangers as well.
- Gratefulness practiced regularly has been shown to reduce overall emotions of negativity, as anger and jealousy. And, perhaps, not so strangely, several studies have shown that even ‘unexpressed’ thankfulness has benefits – those people they feel thankful towards, with them they share a greater bond.
Practicing thankfulness is perhaps the ‘easiest’ happiness habit you could include into your everyday lifestyle.
You can be thankful for as simple a thing as a bright new morning — thankful that you’ve the gift of a promising day, a thing that millions of people aren’t promised.
Benefits of Gratitude Practice
In positive psychology, gratitude strongly associates with higher levels of happiness.
Gratitude helps you feel more of positive emotions, savor the good life experiences better, improve your physical and mental health, deal better with the hard times, and build lasting relationships.
- Well-Being: Grateful people have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism. And lower levels of depression and stress. A tendency toward gratitude seems to increase pleasant feelings more than it reduces the negative emotions. Also, grateful people do not decline or ignore the presence of the negative aspects of their life.
- Prosociality: People who strongly favor gratitude can be empathic and to take the viewpoints of others. People see them as more generous and more helpful by people within their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).
- Spirituality: Those people who regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities as prayer are more likely to be grateful. Grateful people are more likely to admit a belief in the interconnectedness of all life. They also tend to be more committed to and responsible for others (McCullough, 2002). Though gratitude does not require one to have religious faith, faith enlarges one’s ability to be grateful.
- Materialism: Grateful people put less importance on material goods. They are less likely to judge their own and others’ successes in terms of material possessions. They feel less envy towards others. They are also more likely to share their belongings with others as compared to less grateful persons.
Sonja Lyubomirsky says:
The expression of gratitude is a metastrategy for achieving happiness.
How To Grow Your Gratitude Levels
Gratitude is to thank and appreciate what you have in your life.
And the proven thing is, whatever your current level of gratitude, it’s something you can always nurture and grow.
A few ways to grow your gratitude:
- Write a gratitude letter, or a thank-you note.
- Thank someone in person, or in your mind.
- Keep a gratitude journal, and fill it in every night.
- Practice the 3 Good Things happiness exercise.
- Count your blessings whenever you can, everyday.
- Try to set a habit of daily mindfulness meditation.
So, take stock of your life today as you look at the equation below:
- Happiness is more thankfulness: More the number of things or experiences you have in your life to be thankful for, the bigger the upper figure in that equation, and the happier you are.
- Happiness is less resentfulness: And, more the number of goals still left unsettled in your day, year, or life, the bigger is the denominator, your resentfulness of having unfulfilled goals, and the lesser is your consequent happiness.
If you always keep wishing for things you don’t have while hoping they will bring you happiness, you will be sorely disappointed. Those things, once acquired or achieved, can reward you at best with a few moments of joy. Beyond that, they can’t do much. They can’t bring you lasting happiness.
On the other hand, science shows gratitude is the key to happiness. Being grateful not only makes us savor the joy of the moment, it also makes you happy in afterglow as you remember it.
So, right now, as you finish reading this: Thank someone for something. If not to them in person, then at least in your mind. You’ll be happier as a result.
Here is a Jane Ransom talking about the relationship between gratitude and happiness, and how a regular practice of gratitude can lead to happiness:
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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