While your Grandparents may have extolled the virtues of gratitude and positive thinking by encouraging you to “count your blessings,” Psychologists have historically ignored themes of human flourishing, preferring to focus more on the unhappier aspects of the human experience.
A review of the past 30 years of psychological research has revealed 45,000 Psychological journal articles on depression, compared to a mere 400 articles published on joy!
Thanks to the recent growth of the positive psychology movement, there has been increased research into the many psychological benefits of gratitude, with study after study revealing that grateful people are happier people. An article on gratitude from Harvard Medical School states: “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.”
Some of the other key benefits of gratitude that researchers have found include:
People are drawn to people who are grateful -the ethical behaviours that gratitude promotes help us form much deeper and more lasting bonds with others.
People who are grateful consistently make an effort to find any good that can come out of life’s difficulties which, in turn, helps build greater resilience to the difficulties that life can bring.
People who are grateful experience more positive feelings in general and behave in a more caring manner.
People who are grateful are less likely to judge themselves and others in terms of their possessions or status. They are less envious of other people and more willing to share with others.
So, if we accept that gratitude is good for us and our relationships with others, how can we cultivate more of an “attitude of gratitude”?
Being grateful has nothing to do with gender, wealth, ethnicity or general good fortune, but everything to do with our mindset or attitude, which is fortunately something within our power to control.
We can nurture and grow an attitude of gratitude by:
Appreciating the simple pleasures
It is human nature to habituate or start to take things for granted over time eg we are typically not grateful for the air we breathe, clean, fresh running water, electricity etc. People who are grateful are more likely to appreciate simple pleasures. They have a talent for extracting greater joy from the everyday things in life so often taken for granted by others.
Regularly reminding ourselves of things to be grateful for
People who are grateful regularly remind themselves of the many things they are grateful for e.g. family, friends, health, nature etc.
Doing the daily grateful recollection exercise
Martin Seligman’s research has demonstrated that you can increase your long-term happiness by almost 10% with the following simple five minute exercise.
At the end of each day, write down three things that you are grateful for and three things that went well for you and their causes. If you like, you can use the App: “3 Good Things” to do your daily grateful recollection exercise.
Doing the grateful reflection exercise
This exercise involves thinking of someone living or dead who you are grateful for having or having had in your life. Think about all the reasons why you are so grateful to have or to have had this person in your life and imagine how different your life would be if you never knew them. If the person is still alive, call them or write them a letter or an email and tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude is simple, free and the benefits extend beyond us as individuals to our friends, family, colleagues and community. Gratitude takes us outside of ourselves and connects us to something much bigger. It is a positive state of mind that heals, energises and transforms lives in a myriad of ways and a simple act of gratitude can change another persons’ day or even have a lifelong impact, so why not give it a go?
If you would like to learn more about our work, or make an appointment with Rachel Tyson at Incorporate Psychology, please contact us today on (07) 3852 2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martin. (2011 Atria) Flourish: A 2011 Atria) Flourish: A new Understanding of
Seligman, Martin. Flourish: A new Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing. Atria 2011
Shelton, Charles M. The Gratitude Factor – Enhancing Your Life through Grateful Living. Hidden Spring 2010
Watkins, Philip C. Gratitude and the Good Life. Toward a Psychology of Appreciation. Springer 2014