Updated: Mar 4, 2019
Many of us know that money can't buy happiness, but if that's true, what will make us happy?
Recent research suggests that gratitude is your key to happiness. Gratitude shifts your focus from what you don't have to what you do have. Practicing gratitude can also have a profound impact on your day-to-day mood. Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the leading researchers in the area of gratitude and positive psychology explains that practicing gratitude enhances our lives in many ways:
1. Celebrate the present moment. Gratitude magnifies your positive emotions. Research shows that when you express gratitude, it makes you re-live positive moments.
2. Block negative emotions. Jealousy, resentment and regret are emotions that can wreck happiness. If you're grateful, you aren't likely to resent someone for having something that you don't. And, you can't be jealous and grateful at the same time.
3. Resilient to stress. Gratitude can help give you a different perspective on a negative life event or trauma. Studies have found people who are more grateful than those who are not have an easier time recovering from post-traumatic stress.
4. Higher sense of self-worth. Being grateful for both the big and the small things helps you feel someone has seen the value in you. Maybe someone helped you get you where you are today or your colleague brought you coffee when you needed a pick-me-up.
"It's not happiness that brings us gratitude. It's gratitude that brings us happiness."
- Brother David Steindl-Rast
Reflect on the little things you may take for granted. Think about how many people may not be able to get up in the morning to take a hot shower. Or, those who don't have cupboards of foods to choose from. What are some of the things you can be grateful for, and ways to express gratitude?
Take time to write down two or three things you're grateful for each day. When we write things down they become more clear and concrete. Take it a step farther and note why you are grateful for what you listed. For example, "I am grateful for my husband making me coffee each morning... because, it is one less things for me to worry about and helps me wake up." If is also fun to look back at those things and recall how much you enjoy and appreciate.
In addition to writing out what you're grateful for, try thinking of a few "favorite frames" or moments in your day that brought you joy. It can be as simple as looking at your child play, noticing the beauty of nature out your window, or receiving a compliment from a co-worker or friend. Share your favorite moment with someone close to you. There is great benefit to recalling positive moments. The brain will go back to that moment and your mind and body will feel just as they did then. You can "trick your brain" to have that same positive feeling.
Write a Thank You note
Take a moment to express how much you appreciate others. Research shows the person writing a thank you card actually gets more benefits than the receiver. Here's one of our favorite videos that shows how this works.