What I Didn’t Tell Them
Do you want more from your life? What if I told you that just one thing can help you in all of those areas? An Attitude of Gratitude What the heck? When I first started looking into gratitude, I wasn’t what I Didn’t Tell Them much.
This list of benefits was compiled by aggregating the results of more than 40 research studies on gratitude. A five-minute a day gratitude journal can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent. 1,a2,a3 That’s the same impact as doubling your income! How can a free five minute activity compare? Gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career.
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Sure, having more money can be pretty awesome, but because of hedonic adaptation we quickly get used to it and stop having as much fun and happiness as we did at first. How can 5 minutes a day have such a large impact? Gratitude makes us feel more gratitude. This is why a five-minute a week gratitude journal can make us so much happier. The actual gratitude produced during those five minutes is small, but the emotions of gratitude felt during those five-minutes are enough to trigger a grateful mood. While in a grateful mood, we will feel gratitude more frequently, when we do feel gratitude it will be more intense and held for longer, and we will feel gratitude for more things at the same time.
After repeated exposure to the same emotion-producing stimulus, we tend to experience less of the emotion. Put more simply, we get use to the good things that happen to us. This also means that we get use to the bad things that happen to us. Hedonic adaptation gives unparalleled resiliency and keeps us motivated to achieve ever greater things. We stop seeing as much positive and start complaining. It is a psychological imperative to fight hedonic adaptation if we want to maximize happiness. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal.
Why does it take several months? It took several months of continuous practice for the largest benefits to appear. After three months of practice, I now have the ability to self-generate slight feelings of gratitude and happiness on command. With more time and practice, I expect the intensity and duration of the generated feelings to increase.
Some people have more grateful personalities than others. Daily gratitude practice can change our personality, but that takes a long time. Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.
Bonus question: Is that first picture actually of me? I’m a handsome, healthy, and popular young man. I would never be working alone in the dark on my computer writing a blog post. There is even reason to believe gratitude can extend your lifespan by a few months or even years.
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Gratitude makes you a more effective manager,c1,c2 helps you network, increases your decision making capabilities, increases your productivity, and helps you get mentors and proteges. 1 As a result, gratitude helps you achieve your career goals, as well as making your workplace a more friendly and enjoyable place to be. Do you think this is effective? I’m not suggesting that criticism and self-focus don’t have a place in the workplace, but I think we’re overdoing it. Americans didn’t receive recognition in the workplace last year. Gratitude reduces feelings of envy, makes our memories happier, lets us experience good feelings, and helps us bounce back from stress.
It really does, and in potentially life-changing ways. Sign up for The Gratitude Hack, the course I created with the sole focus of helping you live a happier, more grateful life. Want to know the details or explore the science that backs up these claims? Click below to go to the specific category or benefit that interests you, or just continue scrolling. Click here to jump to the comments section. Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism.
Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years. 1,f2,f3,f4 I’d say a 5 minute a day gratitude journal would be worth it just for this benefit. The act of gratitude is the act of focusing on the good in life. If we perceive our current life to have more good, we will also believe our future life to have more good. Materialism is strongly correlated with reduced well-being and increased rates of mental disorder. 1 There’s nothing wrong with wanting more.
The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude, reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life, generates negative emotions, and makes them more self-centered. Why is materialism negatively correlated with happiness and well-being? The pursuit of wealth and power has been shown in dozens of studies to be a highly inefficient method of increasing well-being and happiness. To be sure, if your income doubles you will be slightly happier. But how much effort do you think is involved in doubling your income? Motivational speakers will tell you that the money is worth the sacrifices. Applying that same level of energy towards strengthening one’s relationships, cultivating compassion and gratitude, and so on much more reliably creates positive, transformative change.
Said differently, material success is not a very important factor in the happiness of highly grateful people. Materialism flows from two sources: role models and insecurity. Americans are inundated with materialistic role models every day: from advertisements which highlight materialistic themes, to celebrity culture which glorifies the rich and frivolous, to business culture in which we are told our dreams should be to be rich and powerful. Gratitude helps by reducing our tendency to compare ourselves to those with a higher social status. Gratitude is an effective strategy for reducing insecurity. A grateful emotion is triggered when we perceive an act of benevolence directed towards us.
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Those who are more materialistic are more likely to relentlessly pursue wealth. So while gratitude won’t make you lazy, over your lifetime you may end up earning less money. You will instead re-focus on other things. You may, for example, spend time with friends, family, and your hobbies. Gratitude has caused me to focus less on things that don’t matter, like making money, and more on the things that do, like my family and this blog. I think that’s a good thing.
Spiritual transcendence is highly correlated with feelings of gratitude. All major religions espouse gratitude as a virtue. I believe the opposite to also be true, that gratitude spontaneously gives rise to spiritual attribution, helping one feel closer to God or other religious entities. I feel intense gratitude make me want to believe in a benevolent God. My solution has been to re-direct my feelings towards Lady Luck. Why does spirituality give rise to grateful behavior?
Many of the sub-traits associated with spirituality are the same sub-traits associated with gratitude. For example, spiritual individuals are more likely to feel a strong spiritual or emotional connection with others, and to believe in inter-connectedness. I’ll be totally honest, I’m a self-centered twat. I’m a lot better now that I’ve brought gratitude into my life, but I still spend way too much time thinking about myself, and too little thinking about others.
I am starting to have spontaneous urges to help others. In this regard, gratitude practice can be better than self-esteem therapy. That can work, but it can also make us narcissistic or even back-fire and lower self-esteem. Imagine a world where no one helps you.
Despite your asking and pleading, no one helps you. Now imagine a world where many people help you all of the time for no other reason than that they like you. In which world do you think you would have more self-esteem? Gratitude helps to create a world like that. How does gratitude create a more supportive social dynamic?
Gratitude has been shown in multiple studies to make people kinder and more friendly, and that because of that, grateful people have more social capital. This means that grateful people are actually more likely to receive help from others for no reason other than that they are liked and appreciated. For example, a person with low self-esteem may view an act of kindness with a skeptical eye, thinking that the benefactor is trying to get something from them. A grateful person would take the kindness at face value, believing themselves to be a person worthy of receiving no-strings-attached kindness. Gratitude increases sleep quality, reduces the time required to fall asleep, and increases sleep duration. Said differently, gratitude can help with insomnia.
The key is what’s on our minds as we’re trying to fall asleep. If it’s worries about the kids, or anxiety about work, the level of stress in our body will increase, reducing sleep quality, keeping us awake, and cutting our sleep short. If it’s thinking about a few things we have to be grateful for today, it will induce the relaxation response, knock us out, and keep us that way. 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 had significantly better sleep. They reported faster time to sleep, improved sleep quality, increased sleep duration, and less difficulty staying awake during the day.
Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor. This confidence comes from 137 research studies. How does gratitude improve my health? The science on how is still unclear.
Gratitude reduces levels of stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Gratitude encourages pro-health behavior like exercising and paying attention to health risks. I’m confident that gratitude can extend lifespan, but no single study as yet has actually proven this claim. Here is what we know: optimism and positive emotion in general have been used to successfully predict mortality decades later. 2,f3,f4 The optimistic lived a few years longer than the pessimistic. A few years may not sound like much, but I know when I’m about to die I’d like to have a few more years! We also know that gratitude is strongly correlated with positive emotion.
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With positive psychology research on the rise, I believe we can expect this claim to be rigorously tested within the next five to ten years. Study of 238 people found a correlation of . Study of 1662 people found a correlation of . Same study found correlations above . 3 even after controlling for the levels of: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and perceived social desirability. 2 This means that vitality and gratitude are strongly correlated even after considering the possibility that they are correlated because high-energy people and high-gratitude people share personality traits like extroversion in common. Do people with more energy tend to experience more gratitude, does gratitude lead to increased energy, or is something else going on?
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People with high levels of vitality tend to have some of the same traits that highly grateful people do, like high levels of optimism and life satisfaction. Gratitude increases physical and mental well-being, which in turn increases energy levels. Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise. In one 11-week study of 96 Americans, those who were instructed to keep a weekly gratitude journal exercised 40 minutes more per week than the control group. 2 No other study has yet to replicate these results. Those that have more gratitude have a more pro-active coping style, are more likely to have and seek out social support in times of need, are less likely to develop PTSD, and are more likely to grow in times of stress.
In others words, they are more resilient. Surprise, surprise: gratitude actually feels good. According to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude is just happiness that we recognize after-the fact to have been caused by the kindness of others. Gratitude doesn’t just make us happier, it is happiness in and of itself!
I less happy, I was also weaker. It takes strength to admit to the truth of inter-dependency. Our memories are not set in stone, like data stored on a hard-drive. Experiencing gratitude in the present makes us more likely to remember positive memories,m1 and actually transforms some of our neutral or even negative memories into positive ones.
2 In one study, putting people into a grateful mood helped them find closure of upsetting open memories. What’s going on with my memory! A small bit of jealousy or envy directed at the right target is motivating. Too much produces feelings of insecurity, materialism, inferiority, distrust, and unhappiness.
How does gratitude reduce feelings of envy? The personality trait of envy has a correlation of -. 39 with the personality trait of gratitude. In addition, on days when people experience more gratitude, they are also more likely to experience less envy. This is likely because an attitude of envy and an attitude of gratitude are largely incompatible.