People who spend time counting their blessings are happier than people who thinking about their troubles. That makes intuitive sense, but it’s also been demonstrated by real academic research.
Researchers at UC Davis and University of Miami split a group of roughly 200 people into 3 groups – each was asked to fill out a weekly report about events that had happened that they were grateful for or found to be a hassle. A third group, the control, was simply asked to note “life events”. The report also asked participants to describe their mood, attitude toward life and other measures of well-being.
The results: gratefulness leads to happiness, health and more exercise!
There was a significant main effect for the ratings of one’s life as a whole and expectations concerning the upcoming week: Participants in the gratitude group rated their life more favorablyon these two items than did participants in the hassles group or events group. The gratitude-group participants experienced fewer symptoms of physical illness than those in either of the other two groups. … People in the gratitude condition spent significantly more time exercising (nearly 1.5 hr more per week) than those in the hassles condition.
Emmons, McCollough 2003 (full-text link)
Living the Research
The thing is, most people have things they are grateful for, but they don’t take the time to express them (unlike their hassles, which they are happy to express as complaints =D) You almost need to build a habit of expressing gratitude to really have this gratitude effect work for your happiness.
I keep a four-line, ten-year journal and every night, I use one of the four lines to write down something I’m grateful for every day. Usually it’s something mundane like “Had a nice conversation with mom today.” or “Completed my mail-in ballot early – proud to be an voter.” It’s a great way to count my blessings on a regular basis.
One thing I know I can do better is communicating my gratitude to the people I care about. I think we worry it might seem cheesy or fake, but those small appreciations can mean a lot.
So I ask you:
What are you grateful for? And how do you express it?