The Power of Being Grateful
Want to feel happier? Here are 9 ideas to cultivate your inner gratitude.
It’s hard to really measure happiness, but scientifically, being grateful increases overall well-being. In 2003, scientists studied two groups: One group kept a list of things that irritated them, and the other group kept a list of things that made them feel grateful. The study revealed that participants who had a positive outlook reaped stronger emotional and interpersonal benefits.
Other studies have shown that feeling grateful releases oxytocin—a hormone that helps you feel happy, safe, and calm. Grateful people also tend to exercise more, visit the doctor less, feel happier, spend less money, and are better at motivating others to work harder.
Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, says gratitude is important for a happy life. “Gratitude brings freedom from envy; when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more,” Rubin writes. “That, in turn, makes it easier to live within your means and to be generous to others. Gratitude fosters forbearance—it’s harder to feel disappointed with someone when you’re feeling grateful toward him or her.”
How do you start developing a thankful heart? Consider these ideas:
Have an accountability gratitude partner
You’re more likely to do something if someone holds you to it. Find someone to text or email what you’re grateful for each day. You can give it a set number (such as “here are my five things I’m grateful for”) or keep it simple with just one. And the great thing about having an accountability partner is that they get the benefits of feeling grateful, too.
Write thank you notes
This may be an out-of-date practice, but there is something therapeutic about sitting down and writing an old-fashioned thank you note. Consider writing it for anything from, “Thanks for bringing us cookies last week” to “Thank you for being such a good friend to me.”
Pick a gratitude trigger
If writing isn’t your thing, try picking a frequent habit and linking it to something you’re grateful for. For example, each time you pick up your phone, think about something you’re grateful for. Or think of something each time you wash your hands or brush your teeth.
Go on a grateful walk
Keep your headphones off, walk around the block, and make a mental list of all the things you’re grateful for.
Keep a gratitude journal
This is a classic for a reason: It’s powerful. Write something you’re grateful for every night, or if that seems like too daunting a task, keep it to one sentence. Try a free gratitude-tracking app if you’d like to keep a digital version.
Make saying “thank you” a goal
Count how many times you say thank you in a day, and then make a goal of saying it more the next day.
Use birthdays as an excuse
Whether you love or hate Facebook, one of the great tools it provides is the birthday reminder. Use someone’s birthday as an excuse to tell them why you’re grateful for them, whether through card or messenger.
Keep a list on your wall
Jot down one word a day, and every time you look at the gratitude list, it will remind you of all the great things you have going for you.
Make it personal
Humans are prone to negative self-talk, so much so that we tend to forget something that works constantly and doesn’t get near enough praise: your body. Thank your body for the good work it does for you each day. Just think: Your heart beats more than 100,000 times per day. And, when you focus on being grateful for the great work it does, any dissatisfaction about other areas of your body tend to dissolve.
If the reasons above aren’t enough inspiration to create a gratitude practice, remember the words of Deepak Chopra: “Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.”