Both intuition and research have shown that feeling grateful makes people feel good, physically and emotionally. Gratitude, as defined by psychologist Robert Emmons studying this positive emotion, is a two part emotion. First, gratitude is when we affirm that there are good things in the world. Secondly, gratitude is when we recognize and acknowledge that goodness is brought into our lives by other people or a higher power.
People who regularly express gratitude are more likely to have healthy, happy relationships, experience less stress and have a stronger immune system. Grateful people are more forgiving, outgoing, feel more satisfied with their life and tend to feel less lonely and isolated. They tend to sleep better, exercise more regularly and feel more connected to others. Adults and teens who express gratitude regularly are also less likely to experience depressive symptoms and mood swings.
Expressing gratitude is not only an action, but an attitude and overall lifestyle that can be taught and developed. All it takes is making time for small acts of thankfulness on a daily basis. Here are some ideas to try:
Send a note. Take time to appreciate the people in your life who have influenced you or who enrich your life. Write them a letter or email and show them you are thinking of them.
Think three. When we are angry, frustrated or stressed we often become consumed by our immediate emotions and lose sight of the big picture. Before acting on these emotions stop and think of three things that you are grateful for. It can help you calm down and handle the situation more calmly.
Keep a gratitude journal. This can be in the form of a physical notebook or as a social media challenge, challenge yourself to make a list of at least one thing you are grateful for every day.
Five to one. Relationship expert John Gottman has found that healthy relationships are based on at least 5 positive encounters to one negative one. Challenge yourself to be grateful for 5 things about your partner for every one that you complain about.
Reframe the tough stuff. Life can get difficult and messy and it is easy to regret mistakes or focus on how a situation has hurt you. In the midst of those negative thoughts, think of at least one reason why you are grateful for the hardship. For example this can be in the form of a lesson you learned or a door that opened as a result.
Say thank you. Whether it’s to the man checking you out at the grocery store, your coworker or a family member, those two simple words are ones that can get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Take a moment and just smile and say thank you.