As I write this, during the Thanksgiving season, I’m reminded of many of the wonderful things I’m grateful for in my life: family, health, friends, a safe and comfortable home, a satisfying career, and the privilege of living in a free country.
As I reflect on these things, I can’t help but feel a little more happy and blessed. (I’m also very grateful for the homemade mashed potatoes and gravy at the Thanksgiving dinner table!)
Even when it’s not Thanksgiving time, it’s important to regularly and intentionally express our gratitude for the people and things that bring joy, satisfaction and meaning to our lives.
While we know on some level that it feels good to give thanks, you may not be aware of the huge amount of scientific evidence that shows just how beneficial giving thanks can be.
Psychologist Robert Emmons says that “gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health and satisfaction with life of any personality trait–more so than even optimism, hope, or compassion.”
Benefits of gratitude
I recently reviewed Dr. Emmons’ excellent book on gratitude as well as a fascinating article which summarized over 40 research studies on the benefits of gratitude. From these sources, I’ve extracted several of the tremendous benefits from expressing gratitude. Here they are, in no particular order.
1) You can have more positive feelings. Expressing gratitude has several emotional benefits, including feeling more relaxed, having happier memories, and bouncing back more easily from stressful events. Also, gratitude brings higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, and overall happiness.
2) You can reduce negative emotions. In addition to the positive emotional benefits, people who cultivate the habit of showing gratitude feel less envy, resentment, greed and bitterness, and have decreased depression and anxiety.
3) You can be healthier. When we show our gratitude more, we can see numerous positive physical health changes. These include fewer physical complaints, increased exercise time, decreased pain, sleeping better, lowered blood pressure, quicker recovery from illness and having more physical vitality.
4) You can have greater success at work. Gratitude in the workplace has been shown to help employees be more effective, improve their decision-making skills, and increase their overall productivity and goal achievement. Additionally, you will help promote a friendlier and more pleasant work environment.
5) You can have a more positive mindset. People who regularly express gratitude can show improvements in optimism, self-esteem, and spirituality, along with being less self-centered and materialistic.
Simple ways to express more gratitude
So, if you are on board with these well-established findings that gratitude has many tangible, if not life-changing personal benefits, how do you inject a little more “thanks-giving” into your everyday routine? Try these simple and effective strategies for expressing gratitude:
1) Keep a gratitude journal. At least once a week, or daily if possible, take a little time to reflect on the things you are grateful for and write a brief entry in a journal about them.
2) Tell someone why you appreciate them. Do this as directly as possible, preferably in person or by phone. Not only will you feel better, but so will they.
3) Write a thank-you letter. If you can’t directly thank someone, send them a letter to say why you appreciate them.
4) Thank someone mentally. If you can’t thank someone right now, think about why they are meaningful to you and how much you value them.
5) Count your blessings. Yes, make a list of your blessings. You will be surprised how long it will become over time as you keep adding to it.
6) Pray or meditate. Whether you consider yourself a spiritual person or not, use some private time for reflection and/or prayer about the things for which you are grateful.
I think the tremendous power of gratitude is underappreciated and underused. We could all benefit from expressing our thanks on a more consistent basis. I hope these ideas and strategies will encourage you to bring more gratitude into your daily thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Here’s a question: How can you incorporate gratitude into your daily or weekly routine? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend. And, thank you…yes, thank you…for your ongoing support!