Posted on July 10 2019
In the fast paced and often chaotic and stressful reality of modern life, it can be difficult to take time out of our days to reflect on and be thankful for the good things we have. We are all familiar with this expression of thanks for what we have: gratitude. But did you know that gratitude can be a powerful tool for your own happiness?
That’s right, being grateful has actually been shown to increase energy, optimism, and empathy. A good deal of research in the field of positive psychology has been conducted on gratitude and it’s benefits. All signs point to expressing gratitude as an indicator of personal well being and happiness.
In one study, researchers measured participants levels of gratitude with a series of tests, in which they had to express gratitude for a variety of things. They found that completing these tests caused short term mood improvement in their subjects. In the study, those whose scored highly on these tests were said to have high levels of GRAT (a measurement for gratitude). Participants in the study with high GRAT levels scored higher on two tests measuring levels of personal well being. Researchers concluded that this suggests that people with higher levels of gratitude are, in general, happier.
So know that you know the benefits of gratitude, let’s take a look at how you can integrate gratitude practice into your everyday life.
Three Easy Gratitude Exercises
1. Gratitude journaling
One of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is through keeping a gratitude journal. Simply focus on the things that you are grateful for each day, whether it be the fact that you ate a delicious lunch or that you received a nice compliment from a co-worker, and write them down at the end of the day. Keeping tabs and reflecting on the experiences that made you feel good during your day can lead to huge benefits in your overall mood.
In one study, researchers looked at handwritten autobiographies of 180 young Catholic nuns, studying the content for emotional content and expression of gratitude. Fifty years later, the researchers found that 90% of the happiest nuns lived beyond the age of 85, and only 34 percent of those who scored as the least happy lived past 85. They claimed that this could indicate that gratitude is associated with longevity.
So if you start keeping an upbeat and grateful journaling practice, don't be surprised if it helps you live longer.
2. Gratitude letter
Another tried and true exercise used by psychologists in the study of gratitude and happiness is writing a gratitude letter. This exercise focuses on reflecting on your feelings of gratitude toward one individual. You are meant to write and send a letter to a close friend or family member, in which you reflect on and share why you are grateful for them.
Researcher and pioneering positive psychologist Martin Seligman tested the power of gratitude letter writing on 411 of his undergraduate students at The University of Pennsylvania. He made their weekly assignment writing and personally delivering a letter of gratitude to an important person in their life who they had never fully thanked for his/her kindness. The students saw huge increase in scores of happiness, with benefits lasting for a month. Seligman found that the impact of this exercise was greater than any other intervention he had tested on the group (Read more here).
3. Gratitude walk
"Walking is man's best medicine", Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, once said. We know that he was right. Walking is not only is obviously very beneficial to one's physical health, but also it can be beneficial to mental health as well.
That is why we recommend trying a gratitude walk. Also known as a savoring walk, this exercise epitomizes the old saying “stop and smell the roses”. The participant is encouraged to walk, for about 15-20 minutes, completely tuned in to their surroundings: taking note of what is around them and expressing gratitude towards the simple beauty of their surroundings. A good deal of research indicates that completing this exercise increases one’s mood and can have long term benefits related to increased well-being.
Harness the power of gratitude!
We hope that you both enjoyed this post and will try some of these wonderful gratitude exercises. Feel free to share your experience with any or all of these exercises in the comments below!