When Looking for Happiness, Find Gratitude
While it may seem like an unnecessary practice, gratitude promotes positive well-being in a surprisingly large amount of ways. And it’s as simple as consciously thinking about and recording what you have in your life that you appreciate.
“You should be grateful” is probably something we’ve all heard from one source or another. But honestly, why? What is the point of thanking the universe for what we have? Is there anything to gain other than trying to make ourselves feel better about what we don’t have?
The simple answer to these questions is yes, there is a lot to gain from being grateful. Here are just a few of the major benefits:
Connect with Others
Gratitude has the ability to strengthen and improve relationships as well as promote new connections. Research shows those who practice gratitude are more likely to offer emotional support and assistance, share their possessions with others and forgive more willingly. Consequently, grateful people are rated as more helpful and more generous by their social networks than those who are relatively less grateful.
It’s natural to feel more connected to someone who shows you they appreciate your presence in their life; it’s a positive reciprocation that fosters healthy connections.
Lessen Depression, Anxiety and Substance Abuse
A large study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University showed that thankfulness predicted a significantly lower risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence and drug abuse.
In addition, studies show that psychological well-being directly associated with human potential and growth (or “eudemonic” well-being) has been linked to gratitude. Those who experience low eudemonic well-being are over seven times more likely to be diagnosed with depression later in life. So essentially, gratitude helps us reach our goals and has the ability to build resilience to depression.
Gratitude helps people focus less on social comparison—those who practice are less likely to be envious of others and less likely to judge their own success in relation to the success of others. When you compare yourself to others rather than appreciate what you have, you’re not only expending more energy, but your self-esteem is left to hang in the balance of “who’s better.”
The results of a study that compared gratitude to social comparison showed that practicing gratitude promoted higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
Luckily for us, gratitude is an easy practice to pick up. Start by writing down the simple things you’re grateful for:
- I’m thankful for my senses. That I have the ability to see mountains, hear music, smell baked goods, etc.
- I’m thankful for the person in my life who’s always there for me.
- I’m thankful I woke up today.
- I’m thankful for my freedom.
The list could easily turn into a novel. If you say “I have nothing to be grateful for,” try thinking about all of the small things you have. It’s easy for humans to take our abilities and privileges for granted. Take the time to notice these things and be thankful you have them. And remember, there is almost always something you have that someone else doesn’t.
Practicing gratitude is an easy habit with too many benefits to ignore. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference in your life.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie