Do you want more from your life? More happiness? Better health? Deeper relationships? Increased productivity? One way to achieve that is to express gratitude. No religious links here but let me highlight the benefits of gratitude.
1. Gratitude makes us healthier.
There is even reason to believe gratitude can extend your lifespan by a few months or even years.
2. Gratitude makes us happier.
A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. That’s the same impact as doubling your income! How can a free five minute activity compare? Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career. Sure, having more money can be pretty awesome, but because of adaptation we quickly get used to it and stop having as much fun and happiness as we did at first.
3. Gratitude makes people like us.
Gratitude generates social capital – in two studies with 243 total participants, those who were 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital. Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.
4. Gratitude boosts our career.
Gratitude makes you a more effective manager,c1,c2 helps you network, increases your decision making capabilities, increases your productivity, and helps you get mentors and proteges.b1 As a result, gratitude helps you achieve your career goals, as well as making your workplace a more friendly and enjoyable place to be.
5. Gratitude strengthens our emotions.
Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.
6. Gratitude develops our personality.
It really does, and in potentially life-changing ways. Personality Benefits, Like Optimism and Less Materialism, of Gratitude. If you’re a man, don’t worry; gratitude won’t transform you into a woman.
7. Gratitude makes us more optimistic.
Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism. Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years.
8. Gratitude reduces materialism.
Materialism is strongly correlated with reduced well-being and increased rates of mental disorder. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more. The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude, reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life, generates negative emotions, and makes them more self-centered.
9. Gratitude increases spiritualism.
Spiritual transcendence is highly correlated with feelings of gratitude. That is – the more spiritual you are, the more likely you are to be grateful.
10. Gratitude makes us less self-centered.
I’ll be totally honest, I’m a self-centered twat. I’m a lot better now that I’ve brought gratitude into my life, but I still spend way too much time thinking about myself, and too little thinking about others. I expect this to change – because of my compassion and gratitude practices I am starting to have spontaneous urges to help others.
11. Gratitude increases self-esteem.
Imagine a world where no one helps you. Despite your asking and pleading, no one helps you. Now imagine a world where many people help you all of the time for no other reason than that they like you. In which world do you think you would have more self-esteem? Gratitude helps to create a world like that.
12. Gratitude improves your sleep.
Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. Said differently, gratitude can help with insomnia. The key is what’s on our minds as we’re trying to fall asleep. If it’s worries about the kids, or anxiety about work, the level of stress in our body will increase, reducing sleep quality, keeping us awake, and cutting our sleep short. If it’s thinking about a few things we have to be grateful for today, it will induce the relaxation response, knock us out, and keep us that way.
13. Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor.
Gratitude can’t cure cancer (neither can positive-thinking), but it can strengthen your physiological functioning. Positive emotion improves health. The details are complicated, but the overall picture is not – if you want to improve your health, improve your mind. This confidence comes from 137 research studies. Gratitude is a positive emotion. It’s no far stretch that some of the benefits (e.g. better coping & management of terminal conditions like cancer and HIV, faster recovery from certain medical procedures, positive changes in immune system functioning, more positive health behavior, etc) apply to gratitude as well.
14. Gratitude lets you live longer.
I will be honest with you – by combining the results of a few different studies I’m confident that gratitude can extend lifespan, but no single study as yet has actually proven this claim. Here is what we know: optimism and positive emotion in general have been used to successfully predict mortality decades later. The optimistic lived a few years longer than the pessimistic. A few years may not sound like much, but I know when I’m about to die I’d like to have a few more years!
15. Gratitude increase your energy levels.
Gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated – the grateful are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor.
16. Gratitude helps us bounce back.
Those that have more gratitude have a more pro-active coping style, are more likely to have and seek out social support in times of need, are less likely to develop PTSD, and are more likely to grow in times of stress. In others words, they are more resilient.
17. Gratitude makes us feel good.
Surprise, surprise: gratitude actually feels good. Yet only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive and constructive emotion (compared to 50% of Europeans). According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the fact to have been caused by the kindness of others. Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!
18. Gratitude helps us relax.
Gratitude and positive emotion in general are among the strongest relaxants known to man. I was having trouble sleeping a few nights ago because I was too stressed and couldn’t relax. I’ll be honest, for the few minutes that I was able to hold feelings of gratitude I almost fell asleep, but holding feelings of gratitude is hard! In this case, too hard – I ended up getting out of bed.
19. Gratitude makes you friendlier.
Multiple studies have shown that gratitude induces pro-social behavior. Keeping a gratitude journal is enough to make you more likely to help others with their problems and makes you more likely to offer them emotional support.
20. Gratitude deepens friendships.
I have one friend who always deeply thanks me for taking the time to see her. That makes me feel appreciated and that makes me feel good. Wouldn’t it make you feel good too?
21. Gratitude makes you a more effective manager.
Effective management requires a toolbox of skills. Criticism comes all too easily to most, while the ability to feel gratitude and express praise is often lacking. Timely, sincere, specific, behavior focused praise is often a more powerful method of influencing change than criticism. Specifically, multiple studies have found expressions of gratitude to be highly motivating, while expressions of criticism to be slightly de-motivating but providing more expectation clarification.
22. Gratitude helps you network.
Gratitude has been shown across a number of studies to increase social behavior. Two longitudinal studies showed that those with higher levels of gratitude actually developed more social capital than those with lower levels. Gratitude helps you get mentors, proteges, and benefactors.
23. Gratitude increases your goal achievement.
In one study, participants were asked to write down those goals which they wished to accomplish over the next two months. Those who were instructed to keep a gratitude journal reported more progress on achieving their goals at the end of the study. One result doesn’t make science – what you should take away from this is that, at the least, gratitude will not make you lazy and passive. It might even do the opposite!
24. Gratitude improves your decision making.
Decision making is really tiring – so tiring that we automate to our subconscious much of the reasoning that goes behind making a decision. Even for the most basic of decisions, like where to go eat, there are dozens of variables to consider: how much time and money do I want to spend, what cuisine would I like today, am I willing to travel far, what should I get once I get there, and so on. If you deliberated on each of these decisions one at a time, your mind would be overwhelmed.
25. Gratitude increases your productivity.
Those who are insecure have difficulty focusing because many of their mental resources are tied up with their worries. On the other hand, those who are highly confident are able to be more productive, because they can direct more of their focus towards their work. This operates at both a conscious and subconscious level – we may be getting mentally distracted by our worries, or more commonly, parts of our subconscious mind are expending energy to suppress negative information and concerns.
Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a massively underutilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness. Make the words “Thank You” part of your daily life.
As part of my tribute to local music: check out Shirley Nair’s song over here.