Although the traditional time of year to count your blessings is Thanksgiving, the end-of-the-year Holiday season is a perfect time too. Science (not to mention simple logic) proves that showing gratitude throughout the year can have tremendous benefits for your everyday life, and many studies have proven it.
In one such study, a group of subjects was asked to fill out either a weekly “gratitude” or a weekly “burdens” journal for nine weeks. The results were limpid: The gratitude group reported increased well-being, had better health, exercised more, felt life was better, and had increased optimism when compared to the burdens group.
In another 4-part study exploring “The Grateful Disposition”, the authors concluded that “Grateful people report themselves as being less materialist and less envious. In particular, grateful people report being more willing to part with their possessions, more generous with them, less envious of the material wealth of others, less committed to the idea that material wealth brings happiness.”
You can read about these two scientific studies and 24 others, all exploring gratitude, here.
Five Ways Gratitude Can Change Your Life
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2104 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a quick thank-you note to the co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new social opportunities.
- Gratitude improves both physical and psychological health.Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to many of the abovementioned studies. Gratitude also reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., has studied the link between gratitude and well-being for decades. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
- Grateful people sleep better.When you cultivate gratitude throughout the day, you’re more likely to have positive thoughts as you’re drifting off to sleep. Rather than ruminating over the friend who forgot to call, you’re thinking of the coworker who stayed late to help you. Instead of obsessing over bills, you’re thinking of the new client you just landed. With positive thoughts as a lullaby, you’re more likely to drift off into a peaceful slumber.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased the self-esteem of athletes, an essential component to their optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces negative social comparisons. For example, rather than feeling jealously or resentment toward people who have more money or better jobs, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
- Gratitude increases mental strength.Research has long demonstrated that gratitude not only reduces stress, but that it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. One study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.
We all have the ability to cultivate gratitude. Begin by taking a few moments to think about all that you have – rather than focusing on all the things you think you should have. This holiday season is a perfect time to begin.