“When you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.” -Oprah
Are you on the growth-minded path? Striving to be better for yourself, your partner and your community? If you are, I know it can be tough. Constantly pushing beyond the boundaries of what we think we’re capable of and what we know how to do is challenging. One of the pitfalls of the growth-minded life is that we can be overly focused on the future and what’s next.
I’ve got good news. One of the most powerful practices we can integrate into our lives to cultivate happiness in the midst of all those important challenges, is also one of the simplest. It’s also backed by science. The answer, practice gratitude.
Did you know that only 20% of Americans rate gratitude as a positive, constructive emotion? Your gratitude isn’t simply a nice thing to do. Practicing gratitude is one of the easiest things you can do to transform your life, and there’s no better time to start than the present. In case you need some extra motivation, here’s a rundown of five scientifically-proven benefits of practicing gratitude.
1. Practicing gratitude will make you happier than money or “stuff”
Because of a little phenomenon called the hedonic treadmill, focusing our attention on amplifying what we have will always have a greater impact on net happiness than pursuing more money or more material objects. For example, the act of using a gratitude journal each day for a month has been shown to have a 10% increase on subjective happiness. Believe it or not, that’s the same amount as doubling your income.
2. Practicing gratitude makes us stronger emotionally
Not only does gratitude improve our self-esteem and lower our risk of depression, it also improves our resilience and ability to deal with trauma. Additionally, it reduces toxic emotions like envy, resent and regret.
3. Practicing gratitude makes for a healthier body
Gratitude heightens our immune system and white blood cells to fight disease and decreases stress hormones like cortisol by up to 23%. It also decreases blood pressure and heart rate variability. Can’t get much better than that!
4. Practicing gratitude makes us better at our jobs
Yes, practicing gratitude leads to a greater sense of professional success. A simple “thank you” from a supervisor gives people both a strong sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. The expression of gratitude has a spillover effect, too: Individuals become more trusting with each other and more likely to help each other out when they’re grateful. In a national survey, almost all respondents found that saying “thank you” to colleagues “made employees happier and more fulfilled,” and a recent study at Wharton showed that pep talks and articulated gratitude for fundraising professionals led to 50% increases in productivity.
5. Practicing gratitude helps us sleep better
Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. In one study of 65 subjects with a chronic pain condition, those who were assigned a daily gratitude journal to be completed at night reported half an hour more sleep than the control group. In another study of 400 healthy people, those participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test also reported significantly better sleep. They reported faster time to sleep, improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration and less difficulty staying awake during the day.
The science is in, and we know what a positive impact it has on our overall well-being. If you want to get started, just practice two simple things in the morning and at night. Wake up and ask yourself…
- What am I grateful for?
- What am I looking forward to?
That’s it, do it for a week and watch the magic unfold.
Photo by Debby Hudson.