The Amazing Power Of Gratitude - How Being Thankful Can Boost Happiness and Wellbeing

Have you ever stopped your busy schedule to ask yourself just how grateful you are? Gratitude can be a game-changer in boosting happiness and general health and wellbeing. And as we continue to move through 2024 at a relentless pace, finding things to be grateful and thankful for in your life has never been more important in the pursuit of happiness. Start this positive habit now.

Oxford Languages defines gratitude as “The quality or condition of being grateful; a warm sense of appreciation of kindness received, involving a feeling of goodwill toward the benefactor.” From a psychologist's perspective, gratitude is defined as “A positive emotional response that we perceive on giving or receiving a benefit from someone (Emmons & McCullough, 2004).”

When someone expresses their gratitude to another, both people benefit in a multitude of ways. In addition to a feeling of happiness, other benefits include reduced depression and anxiety, improved sleep, mood, and relationships, and a stronger sense of well-being.

Studies conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, found that “gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships.” He explains that gratitude has two elements:

  • Confirmation of Goodness - We realize that life is not always good; there are always ups and downs. However, we can confirm that good exists as shown by others’ kindness, gifts received, or loving relationships for example.
  • Source of Goodness – The source of goodness may be our reliance on others. In other words, research indicates that the source of goodness may not be inborn.

The Science Of Gratitude

When we give or receive gratitude, two essential neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, are released from the brain. These neurotransmitters make us feel good and boost our mood, making us feel happy (Emmons RA, McCullough ME, 2003).

An exchange of thankfulness affects our biological functioning, including the brain and nervous system. The positive impact on the brain is long-term (Zahn et al., 2007).

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How To Practice Gratitude

Remember Challenging Times: Take time to recall the tough times in your life. When you remember difficult past experiences and compare your life to what it is today, you will realize the progress that you’ve made, fostering thankfulness.

Start a Gratitude Diary: Each day, think about and write in your diary all that you have to be thankful for, such as family, gifts, kindness, benefits, or special events. Include anything that makes you joyful and remember the small things like watching the sunset or enjoying nature. Reading your diary will help you recall the rewarding experiences in your life and remind you of all that you have to be grateful for.

Be Aware: Be conscious of your surroundings and savor the good things that you may have taken for granted in the past, large and small. Cherish the sound of children playing or conversing with someone you’ve just met. Make a conscious effort to look for positive things to be thankful for wherever you are to boost your happiness.

Express Your Gratitude: When you are the recipient of a kind action, remember the basics, such as smiling, saying thank you, giving a hug, or writing a thank you note.

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Time is Precious: Remember to live in the moment and relish all that is good. Fred Bryant, social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago, reminds us that good moments pass quickly; enjoy them while they happen. Savoring the moment and remembering it may prompt you to recreate it in the future or relive the moment through your memories.

Research has linked thankfulness with many physical and mental benefits. While we know it’s essential to thank those who help us, we sometimes get caught up in our daily activities; we forget to be thankful for the small things and may overlook being grateful to those who have been kind to us.

Giving and receiving thanks helps us to be optimistic and brings us joy. Gratitude is powerful – it boosts our happiness and the happiness of others, making the world a better place.

“The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale.