It seems that most people recognize gratitude as generally positive. However, not everyone may be aware of how gratitude is associated with happiness, or how gratitude can be intentionally cultivated. Fewer still, are likely to engage in regular gratitude practices. Hopefully, the following information can help change that in a beneficial way for you!
Gratitude can be understood as having aspects of a virtue, a behaviour and an emotion. As a virtue, gratitude can be understood as an admirable quality that informs our outlook on life. As a behaviour, gratitude is something that is expressed – either outwardly to others, or inwardly toward oneself. Lastly, as an emotion, there is a felt sense that we can recognize when we acknowledge something positive in our lives.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness and well-being. According to research out of the University of California and the University of Miami, people who practice gratitude regularly tend to feel more optimistic and positive about their lives and also have fewer visits to the doctor. In addition, research done at the University of Texas found that expressing gratitude to others improved those people’s relationships.
Being grateful doesn’t need to be complicated. Some common parts of your life that can be the focus of gratitude include; health, relationships, material prosperity, and experiences and opportunities. It can also be helpful to remember, no matter how things currently are in your life, they could always be worse. Here are a few simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your life:
1) Keep a gratitude journal
Once a day (or even just once a week, if that is all you have time for), write down 1 – 5 things that happened that day (or week) for which you feel grateful.
2) Keep a gratitude token
If writing isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps a gratitude token could be more your style. A gratitude token is a small item, such as a stone or a coin that you keep in your pocket. Each time you notice the token throughout the day, it reminds you to be grateful for something.
3) Keep a daily “Thank-you” quota
As a final strategy, you can set a daily goal for yourself to say “thank-you” a certain number of times to others for ways in which they’ve helped you out. Gratitude is closely linked to appreciation – which is also linking to happiness!