Improve Your Life #4: Attitude of Gratitude
Thinking about the people and things we are grateful for makes us feel happier. There has been a lot of scientific research about gratitude, and the results show that it really works for most people. On the positive side, grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives and social relationships. On the other hand, they are less depressed and less stressed out.
The attitude of gratitude works in almost every aspect of your life. Grateful people have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. When it comes to dealing with the problems of everyday life, then grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience. Grateful people are more likely to ask for help from other people and learn from the experience.
Gratefulness makes you more resilient, and you will spend more time planning how to deal with the problem. Grateful people are less likely to try to avoid or deny the problems. As I pointed out in the first tip some time ago Talk to People and Solve Your Problems.
Grateful people sleep better, and this seems to be because they think less negative and more positive thoughts just before going to sleep.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others. ~~Marcus Tullius Cicero
Considering that all these findings come from solid scientific research, it’s amazing that almost nobody does it regularly. In the last few weeks, I have done gratitude exercises every day, and my happiness is higher (of course, there may be other factors involved).
Here’s how you do it: Set aside 5 minutes, just before you go to sleep or after you wake up in the morning, to think about 3 things you are grateful for at that moment. Of course, you may do more than 3 but go easy on yourself. Even better, write a gratitude journal. Create a text document on your computer or just write your thanks in your notebook. Why journal? Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
[T]he longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment. In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over. Emmons and McCullough conducted similar studies in 2003 and got the same results. ~~Wikipedia
Start with the gratitude journal, but when you feel ready, go out and really thank the people who make your life happier.
My list of stuff I’m grateful for today:
- My morning run was really fast and easy. I’m in great shape.
- One of my business partners said that he likes our company so much that he wants to come work for us.
- My son is getting more experienced to deal with socially difficult situations.
- I am unbelievably lucky to have met my girlfriend.
- I have great friends, great job, great life in general.
Now, go ahead write down the things you are grateful for.
The science behind the attitude of gratitude:
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2008). Gratitude uniquely predicts satisfaction with life: Incremental validity above the domains and facets of the Five Factor Model. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 49-54.
- Kashdan, T.B., Uswatte, G., & Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam War veterans. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 177-199.
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S. & Maltby (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 655-660.
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 1108–1125.
- Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43-48
- Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N.,& Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.