I’ve been thinking a lot this week about gratitude. I’m sure it’s partly because of Thanksgiving and the approach of the holiday season, which we spend expressing thanks. But I’ve also realized that gratitude plays a huge role in day-to-day happiness.
This isn’t just my own personal experience; studies have shown that while happiness levels are pretty consistent for most people throughout their lives, increasing the amount of gratitude you express can actually increase your happiness. In fact, Todd Kashdan, an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, lists gratitude as one of three things necessary for a happy, meaningful life. (If you’re having trouble figuring out how to be more grateful, check out these 10 steps suggested by Dr. Robert A. Emmons, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology.)
I’ve noticed that stopping every so often to acknowledge how fortunate I am makes me feel even better about what I have. Is my life perfect? Of course not. But looking for the things that are going well means I focus more on the positive, even seeing positive things in negative situations. And that surely makes me happier. I think Henry Ward Beecher was right when he said: “The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!”
There is no shortage of wisdom about the expression of gratitude. G. K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” And Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
I love that I get to help people say thank you every day. I believe that the more we express gratitude, telling family and friends that they’re important to us and that we’re happy to have them in our lives, the happier we are.
What do you think? Do you feel happy when you express gratitude? What are you thankful for this week?