Happiness means different things for different people, but most of us would probably agree that we’re open to being happier. Science shows that nurturing an “attitude of gratitude” can actually do just that!
Health and Well-being Benefits
As Ellen Seidman shared in her article for Time magazine’s special edition The Science of Happiness, “People who are regularly grateful are generally healthier and happier.” Actively practicing gratitude can:
- lower blood pressure
- strengthen the immune system
- counter feelings of depression
- increase resilience
- boost life satisfaction
- improve sleep
Starting a Gratitude Practice
One way to regularly practice gratitude is to use a gratitude journal. People who write in one routinely are up to 25% happier than those who don’t! In a study by Dr. Emmons of UC Davis and Dr. McCullough of University of Miami, gratitude journaling participants were more optimistic, felt more self-assured and even exercised more.
When counting your blessings, Seidman suggests listing people and experiences, not things. While it’s fine to appreciate your car for getting you around or new appliances that make your life easier, deeper gratitude comes from being thankful for loved ones and memory-making events. Similarly, it’s best to be specific about what you’re grateful for, such as “My child put away their laundry without being asked fifteen times” or “My partner offered to run errands so I had time to work out.”
Gratitude is also scientifically proven to improve relationships. Expressing gratitude amplifies its effects. By sending a heartfelt thank you note or letter, your gratitude can cause others to feel happier, too. As an alternative, Seidman recommends “sprinkling” texts of gratitude to your significant other, even if your week is extremely busy.
Drs. Lambert and Fincham of Florida State University studied couples that regularly expressed gratitude toward their partner. These couples demonstrated increased “relationship maintenance”, meaning they were more open and willing to talk about concerns and issues in their partnership.
There’s no downside to actively practicing gratitude – even starting with a few minutes each day helps!
5 Strategies to Try
- Write in a gratitude journal about specific things for which you are grateful
- Thank a colleague, friend, or family member in person for a specific action
- Create a Gratitude Tree using these instructions
- Keep a set of greeting cards in your work space so you can thank someone who made your day or went the extra mile
- Start a meeting with a Thank You Circle – everyone has a chance to thank someone else for something they’ve done recently