Studies reveal how gratitude can improve your overall happiness
In this feature I will be exploring how gratitude can improve your overall happiness and therefore life.
When standing on the dance floor at a music festival, I’m usually overwhelmed with a blissful feeling stemming from the crowd, décor, music and immersion into nature.
I’m not here to talk about music festivals or drugs; I’m here to talk about happiness…”
If you think about it there is so much energy charging through the air, through you, making you feel high-and then there are these substances that further take us into the stratosphere.
Upon leaving we are usually left with an elated feeling that lingers for a few days, but then are met with the rapid decline to complete deflation where you are left exhausted and sometimes depressed- battery on empty, dopamine and serotonin on low.
The thing is that with anything that comes quick and hard, the fall is usually of the same tone, like eating a massive slab of chocolate (peppered with ecstasy).
I’m not here to talk about music festivals or drugs;
I’m here to talk about happiness- the emotion that directly affects the central nervous system that will make you more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant; and how practicing gratitude can improve your happiness.
The pursuit of gratitude
This is not just some hippy bullshit, there are a lot of studies that back this and I’m going to delve into four of them.
Study 1, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, makes use of gratitude journals.
Participants were given 1 of 3 tasks expressing gratuity, hassles or neutral happenings.
After 10 weeks, participants in the gratitude group felt 25% better than other groups and also exercised 1.5 hours more.
A later study (2) by Emmons used the same premise as in the previous study and found those completing gratitude exercises to be more emotionally supportive towards loved ones than those in other groups.
Study 3 focused on adults suffering from congenital and adult-onset neuromuscular disorders (NMDs), with the majority of people having post-polio syndrome (PPS).
The results revealed that participants who wrote down points of gratitude before bed felt more refreshed the next day as well as feeling more connected with others in comparison to those who didn’t.
Instead of using a gratitude journal, the 4th study looked at the overall gratitude people showed in their daily lives.
The group of researchers found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep and lower levels of both anxiety and depression.
The crux of the matter is that any practice you do alters your brain chemistry, so you might as well make it a positive practice- which gratitude is 100%.
3 practical steps to achieving an attitude of gratitude
1) Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. This works well first thing in the morning, or just before you go to bed.
2) Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.
3) Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth, and think about something you have done well recently or something you like about yourself.
These are a few examples of how gratitude can improve overall happiness [and not when the serotonin levels are depleted, Ed].