Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It makes us aware of the good things that happen and connects us to a sense of life’s wonder.
Gratitude creates a deep sense of appreciation for what we have in life, which in turn makes us more thankful. When we appreciate something it increases in value and we are more able to realise it’s full worth. If you appreciate someone for something they have done, you both experience more positive emotions.
There is no diminishing return for appreciation. Thanking others makes us more tolerant of differences, creating a sense of camaraderie and belonging.
Researchers also associate gratitude with psychological growth and a coping style known as positivere interpretation. When people with high levels of appreciation experience significant life changes they are more likely to value the experience and feel glad it happened. Continued appreciation of positive changes – a new romance, dream job or successful weight loss – counteracts the natural tendency of humans to adapt and revert back to previous levels of happiness within a year.
Rather than taking happy events and successes for granted, continuing to remind ourselves why they made us feelgood in the first place makes us happier for longer.
All this shows why gratitude is one of the most powerful antidotes to negative emotion and depression. Studies show that when people write regularly about the things they are grateful for, their mood, coping behaviour and even physical health improves. The more we reflect on what we are grateful for, the more we broaden our thinking and build emotional and social resources. Acknowledging—and sharing—moments of gratitude is a powerful practice for staying positive, energised and resilient.
Here are 3 strategies studies show will bring more gratitude into your life:
1. Gratitude Journal
Writing down the things we are grateful for helps make them more real to us. Start a gratitude list or journal you can add to weekly. You can do it in your head—if you do it mindfully. The most important thing is to make this activity meaningful, not something you do because you have to.
2. Gratitude Letter
Think of a person to whom you feel grateful but have never really thanked. Write a letter or email to them describing what they have done for you. You don’t have to send it if you don’t feel comfortable – you will feel positive anyway. If you do send it, your kind words and actions might set off a happiness contagion.
3. Acts of Kindness
When you notice someone being particularly kind and helpful express your appreciation. When you focus on being grateful for kind acts you are more likely to be helpful in return – to the benefactor as well as to strangers. Unpleasant tasks and routine chores become less tedious when shared. Positive emotions and connections flourish. Meaning expands.