Recognising gratitude is immensely powerful and can be used to expand our happiness, and improve our emotional and physical health.
Scientific studies by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than others. Those who cultivated gratitude:
- felt better about their lives as a whole
- experienced greater levels of joy and happiness
- felt more optimistic about the future and got sick less often
- exercised more regularly and had more energy, enthusiasm, motivation, and focus
- made greater progress toward achieving important personal goals
- slept better and awoke feeling refreshed
- felt stronger during trying times
- enjoyed closer family ties and were more likely to help others and offer emotional support
- experienced fewer symptoms of stress
If we want more happiness, joy, and energy, gratitude is clearly a crucial quality to cultivate and express.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Each day list at least 5 things for which you are grateful. Challenge yourself by not repeating items from the previous days and this will help you look more deeply at all the ‘little’ things that enhance your life and give you joy, such as:
- waking in a comfortable bed
- listening to your favourite song
- taking a phone call from a friend
- the ability to touch, see, or hear
- the beating of your heart
- the warmth of a hug.
You can write in your journal just before bed and/or when you wake up in the morning. The time of day isn’t important; what is important is that you consistently take a few moments to consciously focus your mind on your blessings. What we put our attention on expands in our life, so by focusing on what we have to be grateful for, we feel happier and can place matters into greater context.
Write a Thank You Letter
Make a list of at least 5 people who have had a profound impact on your life. Choose one and write a thank you letter expressing gratitude for all the help you’ve received from that person. If possible, deliver your gratitude letter in person. In studies, of people who have practised this form of gratitude, the results have been amazing. Often the recipient of the letter had no idea what an impact he or she had had on another person and were deeply touched by the expression of such authentic gratitude. While we may often thank people verbally, a letter can be even more powerful because someone has taken the time to write their appreciation. A letter can also be re-read and treasured!
Take a Gratitude Walk (mindfulness)
This is a particularly useful practice when you’re feeling down or are filled with stress and worry. Set aside 20 minutes (or longer if you can) and walk in your neighbourhood, through a park, around your office, or somewhere in nature. Pay attention to your senses – everything you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and maybe even tasting – and see how many things you can find to feel grateful for. This is a powerful way to shift your mood and open yourself up to creativity and peace of mind.