The feeling of genuine gratitude can make you happier and improve your wellbeing1
Specifically, gratitude can:
- increase your life satisfaction
- increase the positive emotions you feel (and decrease the negative ones)
- increase the amount of exercise you do
- improve your relationships
- improve your mental and physical health and
- increase your kindness to others (thus increasing their gratitude)2
Gratitude can also enhance optimism, connectedness with others, meaning in life, motivational drive, empathy, and resilience and coping during adversity3.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is defined by researchers as a positive emotional response to a perceived benefit bestowed by another2. That is, you feel good when someone is kind to you. But you may also be grateful for material possessions, even if you earned them yourself. You might be grateful to live in a developed country, or to have good health.
How can you practice gratitude?
Exercises as simple as keeping a gratitude journal, counting your blessings and listing the positive things in your life can increase your gratitude4. Thinking about the good things that have happened to you today and sharing it with others can also help3. It can be a quick exercise that you work into your daily routine: while in the shower, while commuting to work or while you make a cup of tea.
Even a very small amount of time practicing gratitude will have positive effects. Scientists speculate that neural pathways may be permanently altered to support happiness, gratitude and kindness when people are grateful.
The study used MRI scans to identify lasting positive changes in people’s brains up to three months after a single gratitude exercise5.
Happiness, gratitude and kindness work together
According to Peterson and Seligman1, ‘gratitude often requires kindness to set its table’. When someone is kind, the recipient of that kindness experiences gratitude. Kindness, happiness, and gratitude can be viewed as a cycle: Happy people tend to be kinder than those who are unhappy. However, they can become even happier, kinder, and more grateful by counting acts of kindness and being grateful.
I would like to express my gratitude to you for reading this blog. I hope that you practice gratitude today. Your increasing gratitude will increase your kindness to those around you and the happiness of everyone you meet will be impacted. Thank you.
1. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
2. Emmons, R. A., & McCulough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.
3. Kerr, S. L., O'donovan, A., & Pepping, C. A. (2015). Can gratitude and kindness interventions enhance well-being in a clinical sample? Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(1), 17-36. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9492-1
4. Diener, E., Tay, L., Heintzelman, S. J., Kushlev, K., Wirtz, D., Lutes, L. D., & Oishi, S. (2017). Findings all psychologists should know from the new science on subjective well-being. Canadian Psychology, 58(2), 87-104.
5. Kini, P., Wong, J., McInnis, S., Gabana, N., & Brown, J. W. (2016). The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity. NeuroImage, 128, 1-10.