Why Practicing Gratitude Makes Us Happier

Photo by Jessica Castro

Photo by Jessica Castro

Practicing gratitude can be one of the most challenging practices we do on a daily basis, especially when someone cuts us off in traffic, our children are sick, we lose a loved one suddenly, or our boss asks us to work late for the fifth day in a row. Yet as difficult as it can be sometimes, the practice of remembering what we are grateful for has tremendous benefits.

According to a recent study at UC Berkeley, people who wrote gratitude letters reported feeling significantly better mentally several weeks later. Additionally according to another study published in Personality and Individual Differences, participants who practiced gratitude stated they felt healthier and experienced fewer aches and pains. Other reported benefits through a variety of studies include better sleep, less aggressive behavior, improved self-esteem, and enhanced empathy.

In order for a gratitude practice to be successful, it is important to set aside a certain time every day to identify what you are thankful for in your life. The best time to begin practicing this technique might be at bedtime. Place an empty notebook and pen next to your bed. Every night before shutting off the light, close your eyes, place your hand over your heart, slow your breathing, and focus on what matters most to you. Then open your eyes and write this sentence in your gratitude journal:

Today I am grateful for …

Let the words flow. Chances are that what you end up writing will surprise you. In most instances, the things you find you are grateful for will not be material items like cars, boats, or a sparkly new piece of jewelry. Instead, your daily gratitude statements might look more like this:

Today I am grateful for a warm bed.

Today I am grateful for a hug from a friend.

Today I am grateful for my health.

Today I am grateful the laughter of my children.

Today I am grateful for a great conversation with my boss.

Today I am grateful that I had my mother in my life as long as I did before she passed.

Although practicing gratitude through daily journaling is the most effective way to see results, it is important to note that you can practice gratitude wherever you are, whenever you want. You can practice gratitude in the car while at a stoplight. Look at the sky. Quietly reflect on its beauty and then practice gratitude for the gift of nature. You can practice gratitude while in a meeting. Look around at all your co-workers. Find gratitude for all the different personalities because it is the unpredictability of life that keeps you from feeling bored. Practice gratitude while in the grocery store. Look at all the food available at your fingertips. Be thankful as there are many people in the world who do not share the same luxury.

After practicing gratitude every day for several weeks, pay attention to how you are feeling. Seeing results does not provide you a pass to stop the practice. Continue on, no matter where life takes you from here.

By focusing on the simple gifts that life provides us every day, it is possible to transform our thinking into a more positive mindset that promotes fulfillment, happiness, and inner-peace.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.