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Is Gratitude the Key to Happiness?

I love how something as simple as gratitude, that’s completely within our control, can have such a positive impact on our lives. With research-backed evidence that links the practice of gratitude to our overall well-being, scientists prove gratitude to be more than just a current mainstream buzzword. And as it turns out, not only can we increase our own happiness by cultivating gratitude, but in true Spread Happy fashion, studies show we also become more motivated to extend generosity and kindness toward others!

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”

Willie Nelson

Writing this post, with gratitude front and center in my mind, I’ve been taking more time to notice what I might otherwise take for granted. From cruising around on my bike, to times I’m on the tennis court, I’ve been feeling incredibly #grateful (hashtag included for full effect 😆) for my body’s ability to be active. And when I’m with my kids, I’ve been trying to take in and appreciate these fleeting moments that, as everyone says, will “go so quickly,” “in the blink of an eye.”

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”

Frederick Koenig

In addition to acknowledging what we already have, gratitude is cultivated when we recognize the role of others in our lives. Dr. Robert Emmons, a lead researcher in the field, defines gratitude as a social emotion. He explains how we strengthen our connection with other people when we feel thankful and express gratitude for the ways we’ve been supported, as it emphasizes that people outside ourselves play a part in the blessings we have. It also allows us to see goodness in the world, even when we’re faced with challenges. If you have a moment to reflect, think about someone who has shown you kindness, or contributed to a recent success.

We can’t do it alone 💕

Whether we’re taking a moment to be thankful for others, or stopping to appreciate the good in our lives, we can take an active role in enhancing our well-being. According to scientific research, by practicing gratitude, we can experience many physical, mental and social benefits, such as:

It might all sound too good to be true, but it’s the real deal! If you’re interested in bringing more gratitude into your life, there are many ways to go about it. David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has written extensively about “gratefulness,” offers one simple approach:

If you have 15 minutes, this is worth checking out!

The concrete advice Steindl-Rast gives is summed up with the words “Stop, Look, Go.” By building in reminders for ourselves to Stop, we can then take a moment to Look around. Utilizing our senses, and opening our hearts, we can observe our present experience, and Go do something, which could be as simple as savoring the moment or sending out appreciation.

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”

John F. Kennedy

What are some other tangible ways to incorporate more gratitude into our lives, and enjoy the many benefits? Here are a some practices to consider:

  • Gratitude Journal – Write down 3 aspects from each day you’re grateful for, or simply start by writing down 5 things you’re grateful for each week
  • Gratitude Visit – Write a letter thanking someone you’re grateful for, and maybe haven’t had the opportunity to thank. If you’re feelin’ it, you can even take it to the person you’re thanking, and read it to them!
  • Prayer – For those who have a religious or spiritual practice, take a moment to connect with the higher power or forces outside of yourself, and express gratitude
  • Dinner Table Gratitude – Go around the table, and say one thing you’re grateful for. It could be anything, from something good that happened that day, to feeling supported by somebody

Ultimately, anything that helps focus attention on what we have to be thankful for can be an effective way to increase feelings of gratitude. I’d be curious to hear how you incorporate gratitude into your lives, or what practices you might consider.

However you choose to approach it, gratitude can be incredibly empowering, and through practice can become more natural and automatic. It also has the power to transform the world. As Steindl-Rast says, a grateful world is a joyful world. Gratitude promotes respect and connection, while reducing fear and violence. And when people are operating from a feeling of abundance rather than scarcity, they are more generous and willing to share.

Let’s change the world together, one thank you at a time! 😀 And let me take this moment to say thanks to you, sweet reader. I truly appreciate you, your time in reading this, and the goodness you send out into the world. 🙏