Does happiness result in gratitude, or does gratitude result in happiness?
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” (Harvard)
Not only is it good for us, but it’s also good for others. From an Association of Psychological Science 2018 study:
“Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.”
Now that we know how vital showing gratitude is, what can we do about it?
The holiday season may be the perfect time to act on these findings and start showing others gratitude. So, how can showing gratitude be integrated into your life?
How often? We don’t want to treat showing gratitude as a chore, but it is also something we can focus on and track. I spend a lot of time in my home office, but when I venture out, I try to say “thank you” at least once wherever I go. That may be thanking the grocery check-out clerk or the person behind the counter at the post office. I also send one piece of snail mail a week. Who doesn’t like to get something other than bills in the mail? This cadence works for me. What can work with how you live?
What kind? I mentioned that I use a mixture of both in-person gratitude and hand-written notes. Other options may include the following:
- Sticky notes on the bathroom mirror of a loved one;
- A sign on your fence thanking first responders;
- A physical note of appreciation (and maybe some candy or cookies) to the mail carrier or delivery person;
- A coffee voucher to your child’s school crossing guard;
- Texting a heart emoji and a small note of thanks to a friend.
Whatever works for you will surely be appreciated by the recipient.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Amit Kumar, a University of Texas at Austin professor, and his colleagues found that the participants writing the gratitude letters were hung up on competence in expressing their appreciation. However, the recipients were happy to receive the appreciation, regardless of the grammar and syntax.
Showing gratitude and experiencing the benefits doesn’t have to be in the form of grand gestures or take a lot of effort. Small changes in how we interact with people can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others. So give it a shot and see how you feel.
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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