How Gratitude Can Make You Happier
During the holidays, we are told (via social media, television, newspapers, etc.) that we should take time to reflect on what we are grateful for. But, what does gratitude really mean, why is it important, and how do we express it?
Robert Emmons, the leading scientific expert on gratitude, defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” But, the practice of gratitude is so much more than just saying thank you. It is the acknowledgment of what’s good in one’s life and the recognition that the source of that goodness lies (at least partially) outside of one’s self.
The research on gratitude finds that individuals who practice gratitude consistently are:
Happier, more energetic, more hopeful
More empathic, compassionate and helpful
Better able to cope with stress
More socially connected and less isolated
Less bothered by aches and pains and have stronger immune systems
So, how do we actually practice gratitude? What does it look like? The practice of gratitude can take many forms, but some of the most helpful strategies include:
Keep a gratitude journal: Write down five things that you are grateful for each week or note one to two things that you are grateful for each day.
Directly express gratitude: Directly communicate and express your appreciation to another person by writing gratitude letters, calling, or emailing.
Be present, pay attention, and notice what is around you: Sometimes it is the simplest things and everyday experiences that we take for granted.
The act of cultivating gratitude is easier said than done. However, especially during the holidays, it is important to acknowledge and recognize the situations, people, things, and day to day moments that we are grateful for.