Study Says Being Grateful Leads to a Happier Life

The research is clear: Being grateful leads to happiness (it's not the other way around).

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

November started the season of Thanksgiving in the U.S. So, ’tis the season to give love, be grateful and be merry. You may find yourself in a better mood as you do your holiday shopping and surround yourself with the ones you love. While you may subconsciously attribute your good mood to holiday cheer, studies show that it may be something else entirely.

As it turns out, this constant reminder that you should be thankful and grateful, may be the reason that you’re happy. Research done in the field of positive psychology, has shown that gratitude can be linked to greater levels of happiness. When you really and truly express gratitude, it means that you’re focusing on the good in your life, rather than the bad. You’re thinking about the things which you do have, instead of the things you don’t. These positive feelings and emotions have many benefits including, improved health, stronger relationships, and a stronger ability to handle adversity.

Research conducted by two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami looked at the overall effect on people’s moods, when they wrote about things for which they were grateful, versus when they wrote about things which made them unhappy. They also noted when people wrote about what happened in their daily lives, regardless of what emotions it made them feel. The research was conducted over a 10 week time period. The results showed that the people who wrote about things for which they were grateful, expressed more optimism after the 10 week period, and felt better about their lives.

Other similar studies, showed that when people expressed gratitude or thanks, in other ways, like writing and delivering notes to people who they appreciated, expressing gratitude for their partners, or just not taking people for granted; led to surges in levels of happiness. This, increased happiness, was felt by, both, the person giving thanks and the person receiving the thanks. Expressing gratitude, also led to more positive thoughts towards loved ones, and a more positive outlook on life. That positive outlook on life, also led to better health. People who showed gratefulness, reported exercising more and visited their doctors less than people who didn’t.

There were some exceptions to the rule. Middle-aged, divorced women showed no change in mood and neither did children and adolescents. Ultimately though, the number of people who were affected positively, by showing gratitude, far outweighed the people who weren’t.

So now that you know that expressing gratitude can help improve your mood, you may be wondering; how does one turn the switch, so that the focus on the positive, on a regular basis, overpowers the negative? Simple things like writing thank you notes, praying, meditating, keeping a gratefulness journal, or mentally giving thanks, on a regular basis, can do wonders in your journey towards a more blissful mindset.

Originally published on Moms.

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