Gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to improve your well-being and among other things, increasing your happiness. Within positive psychology inquiries, gratitude interventions have proven to be among the most effective, as world expert on gratitude Robert A. Emmons and other researchers have found. Among the wide ranging benefits, researchers have found that “gratitude is positively related to such critical outcomes as life satisfaction, vitality, happiness, self-esteem, optimism, hope, empathy, and the willingness to provide emotional and tangible support for other people, whereas being ungrateful is related to anxiety, depression, envy, materialism and loneliness.” (p. 186)
“A person with the disposition to feel grateful has established a worldview that says, in effect, that all of life is a gift, gratuitously given. Although we cannot in any direct way be grateful, we can cultivate gratefulness by structuring our lives, our minds, and our words in such a way as to facilitate awareness of gratitude-inducing experiences and labeling them as such.” (p. 187) In other words “gratitude is a way of life.” (p. 186)
(Gratitude is one of the 24 Character Strengths included in the VIA Survey of Character Strengths which is a scientifically validated measurement designed to identify what your top signature strengths are.)
The top 10 evidence-based prescriptions for becoming more grateful:
write down, be specific, avoid repetition
- Write down the blessings you are grateful for.
- Create a habit of becoming aware and paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events.
- Be as specific as possible. Try not to just list people and events but rather list what exactly a person did what aspects of an event you are grateful for.
- Watch out not to keep repeating the same list day after day, make a conscious effort to think of new things you are grateful for.
- “Take the time to be especially aware of the depth of your gratitude.” (p. 191)
- “When we remember how difficult life used to be and how far we have come, we set up an explicit contrast in our mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.” (p. 191)
recognize: gifts, connectedness, pain you cause
Reflect on the following three questions daily for about 20min in the evening:
- “What have I received from _____?” – recognizing the gifts we have received
- “What have I given to ______?” – how connected we are to others
- “What troubles and difficulties have I caused _____?” – acknowledging the pain we cause
- Pick a prayer of gratitude that suits you, your faith, your religion, or the absence thereof.
- One suggested by Robert A. Emmons is by Thich Nhat Hanh that will suit any faith as well as the faithless:
“Waking up this morning, I see the blue sky.
I join my hands in thanks
for the many wonders of life;
for having twenty-four brand-new hours before me.” (p. 196)
(Robert found in his studies that prayer helps with achieving goals)
- Being grateful for our senses of touch, see, smell, taste, and hear, just like we are grateful for our health.
mindfulness, reminders, share with others
- Forgetfulness and the absence of mindful awareness are two primary obstacles to being grateful. (p. 199)
- Work desk, fridge, bathroom door, computer, cell phones, car, wallet …
- Having an accountability partner with whom you share or swap gratitude lists is a good way not to forget. (p. 200)
- You increase the likelihood of practicing gratitude and sticking with it when you let your friends and family know, make it a public pronouncement, and post reminders of it.
express gratitude when talking to others & to yourself
- Words we use when we talk to others and to ourselves create much of our perception of reality.
- Express your gratitude to others.
- Change your mood by changing what you say to yourself. Engaging in “gratitude self-talk that draws our attention to the positive contributions that others have made to our lives will simultaneously favorably impact our environmental well-being while strengthening our social bonds.” (p. 205)
express gratitude, remember it, spend time with those who do likewise
- Do things that will help you be grateful.
- Spend more time with grateful people.
- Say, “Thank You.”
- Write gratitude letters.
- Express your gratitude to others.
- Count your blessings.
- Doing these things even when you don’t feel grateful is better than not doing them at all. Research shows feelings will follow your behavior. You behave grateful and you will start feeling grateful.
- Express gratitude to those who harm you.
- Be grateful to those whom you benefit.
Which of these have had the biggest impact in your life? Please share your experiences what has works well for you as well as those you had less success applying in your life. For everyone benefit, keep the conversation going and leave a comment :)
Emmons, R. A. (2007). Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier (illustrated, annotated ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.