Most people usually only express gratitude once a year during the holidays. What they don’t realize is that being thankful for what you have doesn’t have to be “seasonal” like the holidays. In fact, you can be thankful everyday. But why do that? Isn’t being thankful once a year enough? The answer to that is NO! Gratitude has some awesome benefits, many of which I have experienced just by acknowledging the goodness around me.
The first time I learned that being a thankful person was good for me was in the Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, The Happy Secret to Better Work, where I discovered how gratitude increases productivity while working.
“What we found is that only 25% of job successes are predicted by I.Q., 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.” ~Shawn Achor
Little did I know that this wasn’t the only benefit to being thankful, there were many more waiting for me. But first I had to start being grateful. All I needed to do was to write down three things I’m thankful for every day. Since learning this I have done exactly that, and can testify that it works! Now I’ll tell you some of my personal benefits, backed by research, from being thankful.
I’ve been a lot happier! And what makes me even happier is that this is proven by science! According to Robert Emmons of greatergood.berkeley.edu, keeping a gratitude journal has many physical, psychological, and social benefits. More specifically he highlighted four ways being thankful improves our quality of life. I’ll look at two of them (read the others here).
First, gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Emmons describes how positive emotions are only temporary. We experience them when we get new things, and when the novelty wears off we no longer experience the same feelings. Being thankful changes all of this. When you acknowledge things in life as good, you celebrate them, instead of simply adapting to them.
Second, Emmons writes how gratefulness blocks negative emotions, mainly envy and regret. If you’re grateful for what you have you can’t experience envy for someone else’s stuff, according to The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. If you feel happy with what you have, there is no reason to feel envious about something someone else has. And if you’re happy with where you are in life, you’re less likely to feel regret about your past.
I’m less stressed!
Seeing the good things in my life listed on paper has made me feel more confident about the future. I actually read over my list of “thankfuls” every so often. Doing that has shown me how things usually work out for the best, and if they don’t, I still have other things to be happy about. There are always things to be grateful for no matter what!
Time.com reports that a 2003 study with 2,600 adults (mostly religious) who felt grateful toward God had a lower susceptibility to depression and anxiety, among other problems. Stress is one of the main causes of anxiety and depression.
Going back to Robert Emmons’ theory that you can’t be grateful and envious at the same time, it’s also hard to be stressed and thankful at the same time. According to Allen Elkin from Stress Management for Dummies, 2nd Edition, being thankful allows you to detach from a stressful experience. Focusing on positives helps keep worries and stresses at bay. Elkin also reports that people who feel gratitude are happier and report less stress.
Here are 3 ways you can become a more thankful person:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Find a time everyday to write a few things you’re thankful for that day. You can read back over them in the future.
- Tell people thank you! You can write a thank you note or tell them thank you. Just telling someone they are helpful in any way helps both you and them.
- Always think about the good in your life. Don’t get stuck on the negatives, instead be grateful for all that is around you.
Thanks for reading! And check back next Wednsday for part III of the Psychology Series.