People who regularly feel and express gratitude tend to be more optimistic and satisfied in life, have higher self-esteem and sleep better. They also tend to have stronger relationships and communities. And they may even have improved physical health — people who show more gratitude are more likely to exercise more frequently and have fewer visits to physicians.
How gratitude works
Consciously focusing on positive contributors in your life can help shift your attitude — and reduce negative thoughts and feelings. Expressing and acknowledging gratitude helps you affirm the goodness in your life and the sources of this goodness. This in turn can help you keep perspective and be more resilient, even in stressful and difficult times.
Gratitude also can bring “pay it forward” benefits. Gratitude helps you — and those with whom you share it — recognize your value as an individual, get a boost from the positive reinforcement, and be more inclined to express thanks as well.
Adopting a habit of gratitude
You can proactively practice gratitude and make it a regular part of life. Here are some get-started ideas:
- Keep a journal. Writing down what you’re thankful for helps keep you thinking about the positive aspects of your life, which may help keep stress and difficulties in perspective. It also gives you a log of positive memories to revisit and relish.
- Send a thank-you letter. Take the time to write to someone how much you appreciate them — and, if possible, deliver it in person. Acknowledging people who make a difference in your life can give you a “happiness boost” and give them a boost, too.
- Focus on the positive. When good things happen, take time to think about and savor them. Give yourself the time to enjoy positive emotions and experiences — and permission to revel in your own success.
- Make a mental note. Each day, think about the good things in your life and take a mental picture. This can help you reinforce the positive memories.
- Share the joy. Make sharing what you’re grateful for a regular part of your routine. For example, take time during family dinners or outings with friends to share three things you’re thankful for.
Gratitude can go a long way in helping you instill short- and long-term positive feelings. It also may help you be better equipped to bounce back from hard times.
- Helpguide.org. Cultivating happiness: Five tips to get more satisfaction and joy out of life. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
- American Psychological Association. A grateful heart is a healthier heart. Accessed: May 12, 2017.
- American Psychological Association. Mindfulness holds promise for treating depression. Accessed: May 12, 2017.