One of the easiest ways to boost our happiness is to cultivate gratitude. I know, I know. When you’re in a funk, the last thing you want to hear is, “Be thankful for what you have!” but gratitude is one of the surest ways to increase overall satisfaction with life.
A 2003 study from Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California, Davis, found that after 10 weeks of gratitude journaling, subjects reported feeling better about their lives in general and were more optimistic about the upcoming week. Who couldn’t use a Sunday evening boost when looking at what Monday has in store for us?
According to Psychology Today, the subjects in Dr. Emmons’ study were told:
“There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down…up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.”
This once-a-week exercise showed a marked difference in people’s attitudes about their lives, and even lowered physical stress symptoms and led more people to exercise throughout the week. But it seemed something was lacking. A once-daily practice over two weeks showed that people are more likely to serve others, but the health boosts were lacking.
In a third study, participants who wrote gratitude diaries experienced more positive outlook on their lives and fewer episodes of negative moods. Their partners were asked to document participants’ mood and satisfaction with life, and the evidence was greatly in favor of the gratitude exercise. Not only that, but participants also improved their sleep patterns through the exercise.
I love this study so much because it combines two of my favorite exercises: journaling and gratitude. What would be different in your life if you were to exercise gratitude daily?
5 Different Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
If you’re not the journaling type, here are five other ways to cultivate gratitude sure to give you a boost:
1) Smile more often: When you’re happy, you smile. So guess what happens when you smile? You get a little boost of happiness. Not only that, but thanks to mirror neurons, when we smile, others will smile back, spreading the joy.
2) Call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while: How great would it be to receive an unexpected call from a dear friend you haven’t heard from in a while? Think of how you might appreciate that friendship more after catching up with them!
3) Volunteer: Nothing boosts gratitude for what you have like volunteering to help others who are lacking. Whether it’s donating time at the local food bank (I highly recommend this one, by the way!) or reading to kids at the library, giving of yourself makes you happier. It also pulls you out of your navel and puts things into perspective.
4) Write a letter: Sit down and write a letter to a friend to tell them you’re thinking of them. Send out a thank you note to a family member for everything they do. You can even mail a handwritten letter to your doctor, manicurist, or favorite restaurant’s manager. People love to feel that gratitude and it will make you feel better too!
5) Make a gratitude collage: Gather old magazines together and clip pictures that represent all the good things in your life: your home, your upcoming vacation, your family, the good foods you get to eat, and so on. Like a vision board, you can hang it up and look back at it frequently as a reminder of all you have.