The power of gratitude appears to be one of the most common and agreed upon themes in happiness research. The belief in its positive impact is almost universal. Gratitude is also a keystone habit, in that practicing gratitude is foundational and helpful to most of the other habits that improve happiness. Gratitude is geographically universal. Almost every culture has a practice of showing gratitude. In most cases, that includes giving thanks to a higher power or deity. Grateful people tend to find less conflict and more harmony in their relationships and interactions. They appreciate the action that was taken rather than being upset about the action that wasn’t taken. Feeling grateful has been shown to help people feel more energized, alert, and enthusiastic. People who are grateful tend to be more spiritual and more agreeable. Grateful people have a higher sense of belonging. They are less stressed, less depressed, and feel like they have more social support. This encourages them to be closer to people and to build harmonious rather than fractious relationships.
The practice of being grateful forces us to find the positive things in our environment and relationships that are applicable and specific to us. It’s a method of thinking positively that connects more to our feelings than to our logic. Some of the research showed that grateful people perform better specifically in areas where they practice gratitude. Sixth- and seventh-grade students who were asked to write what they were thankful for about school showed improvement in their performance at school. Gratitude also has a pay-it-forward characteristic that creates a virtuous circle. The more grateful we are, the more we want to help other people, which makes us feel better and more grateful. In turn, the people we help become more motivated to help others themselves.
Activities for Gratitude:
- Spend 10 minutes counting your blessings. Don’t stop writing until the 10 minutes is up. Don’t stop until you have over 100 items on your list. Most of us have a lot more to be thankful for than we realize. We take for granted the simple things in our lives, like a bed to sleep on and running water.
- Every morning, think about things you are grateful for and write down three of them. Do this daily to create the habit. Longer term, you will want to vary your timing based on how you feel and what works for you. For some people, doing this exercise weekly created more happiness than doing it daily. You can find the timing that works for you.
- Write a heartfelt letter of gratitude to someone important in your life and read it to him or her in person. The significant increase in happiness comes from actually reading it to them, not just in writing it.
- Write thank-you notes to five people and make sure they get delivered.
- Find a gratitude support partner. Someone you can work with for mutual support for regularly practicing gratitude.
- Introduce someone to something new that you enjoy. Show a friend your hobby. Show a new co-worker around the office. Show a visitor the great things in your town.