The science is in! And it undoubtedly proves that gratitude is more than just a simple sentiment. Studies link gratitude to a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, better sleep quality, reduced risk of heart disease, and better kidney function. But the benefits of living a life in gratitude extend much further than purely physical.
A study out of the University of California, Riverside, reported that grateful people experience more optimism, joy, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions, and they have a deeper appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. These researchers also found that by expressing gratitude for people in your life, like a friend or romantic partner, you can report higher levels of satisfaction in relationships. The most intriguing fact to come out of this study though was that gratitude is a skill that can be learned and nurtured, much like perfecting your Grandmother’s secret recipe.
Gratitude, however, doesn’t always come naturally. In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the things that go wrong and feel like we’re living under our own private rain cloud; at the same time, we tend to adapt to the good things and people in our lives, taking them for granted. As a result, we often overlook everyday beauty and goodness — a kind gesture from a stranger, say, or the warmth of our heater on a chilly morning. That is why it is so important that we make it a priority to live our life in gratitude. Intentionally developing a grateful outlook helps us all recognize the good in our life and acknowledge that these things are truly “gifts” that we are fortunate to receive. Here are simple actions we can take to start making gratitude a habit:
1. THREE GOOD THINGS
This practice guards against those tendencies to miss opportunities for happiness and connection. By remembering and listing three positive things that have happened in your day, and considering what caused them, you tune into the sources of goodness in your life. It’s a habit that can change the emotional tone of your life, replacing feelings of disappointment or entitlement with those of gratitude — which may be why this practice is associated with significant increases in happiness.
2. START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
This exercise helps you develop a greater appreciation for the good in your life. In fact, people who routinely express gratitude enjoy better health and greater happiness. The best part — there is no right or wrong way to keep a gratitude journal. We recommend starting out with writing 15 minutes per day, at least once per week for at least two weeks. Soon you’ll figure out what works best for you and discover the impact on your happiness level.
3. WRITE A GRATITUDE LETTER
This exercise encourages you to express gratitude in a thoughtful, deliberate way by writing — and, ideally, delivering — a letter of gratitude to a person you have never properly thanked. Call to mind someone who did something for you for which you are extremely grateful but to whom you never expressed your deep gratitude. This could be a relative, friend, teacher, or colleague. Try to pick someone who you could set an in-person meeting with in the next week to make the most out of this experience. When writing the letter, don’t worry about spelling or grammar and just focus on how this person’s behavior affected you. Not only will it brighten your spirit, but it will remind the recipient of your letter that our actions really do have make an impact.