Being Grateful Is Key to Happiness
What does it mean to be grateful?
We’ve all felt gratitude at one point in our lives. We feel grateful when we overcome a challenge, fulfill a dream, or prevent something bad from happening.
Although we’re familiar with the feeling, it’s not always easy to define gratitude. Simply put, gratitude is being thankful for all the things you have in your life.
But let’s not confuse being grateful with pretending everything is fine all the time – being grateful is not being bling to all your problems; it’s all about making choices.
You can live your life with gratitude by focusing your time and attention on the good in it. You can appreciate the present moment rather than living in the past or the future. Difficulties will always be present, but you can learn to look at them from a different perspective.
This will help you feel better and more connected with all the things (great and small) you otherwise take for granted.
How gratitude makes you happier
Individuals who feel and express gratitude tend to be happier than those who don’t. Why does this happen? Studies show that being grateful helps you feel more positive emotions. It makes you enjoy good experiences more, helps you deal with adversities, and strengthens your connection with others.
Take a look at some of the benefits that expressing gratitude can bring to your life:
- It lifts your mood
- It boosts your physical health
- It increases your satisfaction with life and self-esteem
- It shifts your perspective to a positive outlook
- It strengthens your connection with others
- It helps you sleep better
- Supports you through hard times
What does science say?
In a study published in 2003, scientists looked at how gratitude impacts the well-being of university students. They divided the participants into three groups. One group wrote down things they were thankful for in the past week, another group listed things that bothered them in the past week, and the third group listed events that affected their lives in the past week. Besides the lists, participants filled out a form about their mood, health, and physical activity.
The results showed that those in the gratitude group rated their lives more positively than those in the hassle or events groups. The gratitude group also had fewer physical symptoms than the other two groups. Interestingly, those in the gratitude group spent more time exercising than those in the hassle group.
Other studies confirmed these findings, showing that expressing gratitude does have a positive effect on well-being.
Ways to cultivate gratitude
Now that know that showing gratitude can contribute to a happier life, the next step is learning how to do it. There are various techniques to cultivate gratitude; the most common are:
- Gratitude exercises – these include meditation focusing on being thankful for various elements in your life, creating a visual mood board with things you’re grateful for, or writing down notes and keeping them in a jar or container.
- Gratitude journals – this is one of the most effective ways to express gratitude, and it involves writing a diary, recording the things you’re grateful for.
While gratitude won't magically solve all your problems, it can make it easier to deal with them and contribute to a happier life. Include some gratitude exercises in your daily routine and see how it makes a difference.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Giving thanks can make you happier.
- J Pers Soc Psychol. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.
- Span J Psychol. The effects of counting blessings on subjective well-being: a gratitude intervention in a Spanish sample.
- Future Learn. Gratitude and happiness: the importance of being grateful.