How Gratitude Makes You Happy
“Gratitude, the Great Multiplier.”
— Rhonda Byrne
I used to think gratitude was a sort of by-product. In other words, if I got something, I was grateful. Sure, I was thankful for my family and friends and plenty of other things. But gratitude was usually this passive after-thought—and something I pretty much saved up for special occasions. I had it wrong, though.
I’ve learned that gratitude is a verb—an action verb. We do gratitude, and we do it a lot if we want to be happy. Basically, the more you do gratitude, the happier you get. It’s something I’m getting better at—like developing a muscle that never got much use.
Gratitude isn’t an end result. It’s more like a cause. That’s because of the simple truth that the universe returns to us more of what we already have. You know the old ‘cart before the horse’ adage? When you are thankful for something you have, it’s only natural that you get more. You might say, “Well, this sounds insincere. Gratitude should be spontaneous and real. You shouldn’t be grateful while expecting something in return.” Absolutely! But here’s the thing about gratitude -you can’t fake it. It’s impossible. You can’t fake feelings . Gratitude isn’t just saying thank you without anything behind it — like we were told to say when we were young. Gratitude isn’t about politeness and manners. It’s truly being and feeling grateful for anything and anyone in your life . From the smallest, tiniest things to the big ones.
Scientific studies have been conducted through the years on the link between gratitude and happiness. One of the studies, named Counting Blessings versus Burdens, conducted by Robert Emmons from the University of California and Michael McCullough from the University of Miami, and published in 2003 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded that practicing gratitude can increase a person’s happiness levels by around 25 percent. That’s an impressive percentage.
A person’s happiness level is his or her set point . It’s the level of happiness sustained no matter what circumstances — positive or negative — come and go. The research also shows that people who practice gratitude tend to be more resilient, have stronger immune systems, and hold stronger relationships. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
And think for a second what’s actually happening in our minds when we count our blessings. Think right now of something or some person you are grateful for. What comes up? An image. To me, it always comes back to the pictures we hold in our minds. Can you see how powerful they are?
So how do you do more gratitude? You can start by saying thank you more often. Just start saying thank you more often to God or the Universe or any name you have for this huge ocean of energy that we all live in. In my book, Simply Being Happy, I list plenty of scientific proof of this energy. So have at it!
Many people keep a gratitude journal and write a few things they’re grateful for in it every day. The best thing to do, whether you use a gratitude journal or not, is to “bookend it” into your day. Into your mornings or nights or both. Even one minute of gratitude a day will work. If you doubt me, set a timer on your phone and try it now. It’s fun. Like any new routine, though, it will be harder in the beginning and then it will turn into a habit. You can be grateful for everything and anything—big and small. Even things we take for granted like fresh air.
Speaking of taking things for granted—gratitude can also turn negatives around. Thinking critically of your spouse? Disappointed at work? Overwhelmed at home? Try stepping back for a minute and start listing all the things you’re grateful for about him, or your job, or your family. This practice helps to give us some perspective, when all we can see in the moment are the negatives. Reminding ourselves of how lucky we are can work wonders.