Writing or expressing gratitude makes us happier and healthier. Gratitude is defined as a thankful appreciation for the goodness in ones life – whether for example, for people, an event, an experience, a gift, a memory, good fortune and more. It’s a sense of appreciation and wonder that helps us not take things for granted and also provides hope and optimism for the future.
Gratitude is a feeling and experience rather than an expression, and as such not only helps us feel better, but also provides a connection to something greater than – or something outside of – ourselves. It’s not just something good that happens, but an experience of goodness within our self, which enhances our sense of well-being.
Many leading researchers in the field (Emmons, McCullough, Seligman and others) have studied individuals in a variety of settings and unconditionally found benefits. For example, studies have shown that people who write 3-5 things they are grateful for sleep better and are happier than people who write down 3-5 hassles or events.
Makes sense, right? Yet why do many ruminate for hours, days, weeks or longer over a negative event or hassle?
Gratitude helps individuals
- Feel more positive,
- Savor good experiences,
- Improve health,
- Increase resilience
- Foster strong relationships
- Improve sleep
Gratitude has also been researched in worksites. Wharton School of Business found that when managers express gratitude or remember to say “thank you” to employees resulted in employees being motivated to work harder. In addition, our research at Dimensions indicates that letting employees know that they are appreciated enhances employee well-being, plus leaders are more satisfied.
In addition, those who cultivate gratitude also increase contentment, fostering a sense of appreciation for what one has instead of wanting and searching for something more. This increases a sense of satisfaction instead of searching and grasping for things we do not have – always seeking rather than appreciating. Contentment and satisfaction also foster well-being and resiliency.
And the good news is that gratitude is a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate, regardless of whether gratitude bubbles up naturally or not. Here are a few suggestions for cultivating gratitude,
Keep a gratitude journal at least weekly and write down 3 to 5 things that you will identify as being grateful for. Remember and reflect on each since it’s also known that savoring the positive is even more beneficial for well-being, and creates the conditions to notice more positive rather than negative occurrences.
Practice mindfulness mediation, which includes focusing on the present moment without judgment.
Meditation can also be used to reflect on gratitude.
Reflect on and write a thank you note or tell someone in person that they made an impact on your life.
Let them know your heartfelt appreciation for what they did or how you are a better person because of their influence.
Write a thank you note of appreciation for assistance, a gift or service provided.
Want more ideas? Go to Greater Good: the science for a more meaningful life.
Take this challenge – Keep a gratitude journal. For the next month, at least once a week (2-3 times a week even better!) think of 3 – 5 things for which you are grateful. Write them down. Note how you feel afterwards, then make a conscious decision to continue the journal. Let us know your thoughts and experiences!
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net