We want to talk about how we can be people who give thanks in all things, but before we do, let’s explore some of the benefits of gratitude.
Nothing predicts happiness like gratitude. No single activity more reliably predicts your happiness as the practice of gratitude.
Notice I said the practice of gratitude, not the attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is something you do. For example, you might make a gratitude visit.
Think of someone that made a big impact in your life growing up, or someone who means a lot to you right now, but you have never really told them. Write out a letter of gratitude to them. Tell them what they did that was meaningful and why it was meaningful to you.
Set up an appointment to go visit them. Be a little vague as to the purpose. Go over and read the letter to them. Talk about it. Cry. Hug. Scientific research says you will be happier and the effect will last at least 30 days. Seligman reports, “The gratitude visit produced large decreases in depression and large increases in happiness one month later.”87
The point is that gratitude is something you do. You write a letter. You go to them. You read it to the person you are grateful to. You don’t just feel grateful feelings. You write. You drive. You read.
Write down three things you are grateful for every day and why you are grateful for them. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds so simple that there is a good likelihood that you won’t take it seriously and you won’t actually do it. But it is in the doing that all the benefits come. And, in this case the benefits are huge. “In a study of people who completed the first web exercise, ‘Three blessings’, Seligman found that 94% of severely depressed individuals became less depressed, and 92% became happier, with an average symptom relief of a ‘whopping 50% over only 15 days’ (Seligman, 2005).”88 “The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”89
So, gratitude is something you do. Back to the original question: what difference does doing gratitude make?
Practicing gratitude can actually make you happier than winning the lottery. It improves your health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career. Winning the lottery would cause you to see a huge spike in your happiness, but the result would not be long lasting. A gratitude journal would not show as dramatic results, but the results would last over time.
Researcher, Robert Emmons, says, “Adults who keep gratitude journals on a regular basis exercise more regularly, report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the future.”90 “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people experience higher level of positive emotions such as, joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism. The practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness.” Let me summarize a whole lot of research for you: all good things come to the grateful. Not so to the ungrateful. And, the relationship is causal, not merely a correlation. (Swimming and ice cream sales have a relationship that is correlational: they both happen at the same time. They are both caused by a third factor: summer heat.) We can document that people who practice gratitude enjoy a wealth of benefits. We can document the fact that the gratitude causes the other benefits. They are not merely correlational. It is not that happy people are grateful. It is that grateful people are happy.
Hunt, Josh. 2015. Obedience. Josh Hunt.