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Gratitude Brings Happiness

Point to Ponder:

Do you pursue happiness through gratitude?

Happiness--the slippery fleeting emotion that people are constantly in pursuit of finding and holding onto. On July 4, 1776, the pursuit of happiness, along with life and liberty, is among what our founding fathers identified in the Declaration of Independence as our unalienable right that has been given to all human beings by their Creator.

Happiness is indeed pursued in a myriad of ways and changes throughout our life. From relationships, career, money, time with friends, being in service to others, dancing, exercise, music, alcohol, food, travel, shopping, control, and so much more---all of these things can contribute to temporary happiness. However, the one undeniable and disciplined cure-all that can be accessed anywhere, anytime and costs nothing is gratitude- identifying the blessings in your life and saying "thank you".

In last week's journal, Gratitude in Motion, I referenced the scientific proven health and physiological benefits of gratitude, with the action being to write someone to whom you are grateful for a hand-written grateful gram. I can only speak for myself but after writing my grateful grams, I did feel a physiological change, as I felt more energetic. For the sake of today, the week leading to Thanksgiving and forever actually, to access long-term happiness, I encourage you to look no further than gratitude. Check out more scientific proven facts from another excellent Well-Being article in SUCCESS Magazine , proving that gratitude does lead to happiness...and have the happiest of Thanksgivings! iGnite is so grateful for you!

1. Gratitude helps your brain process other positive emotions, including joy. Routinely practicing gratitude helps us experience increased positive emotions including interest, excitement, joy and pride. Gratitude increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which are key neurotransmitters that give us feelings of contentment. If we are grateful more often, the happiness-producing neural pathways strengthen, just as exercise strengthens the body.

2. Gratitude promotes optimism, which leads to greater well-being. Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Miami found that after regularly expressing gratitude for 10 weeks, study participants reported feeling more optimistic about their lives. Optimism, in turn, has been shown to be a life-lengthening trait in a recent Harvard University study. In terms of the impact on overall health, one study found that “Optimism may significantly influence mental and physical well-being by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle….” Indeed, overall well-being seems to be influenced by optimism, which can be strengthened by gratitude.

3. Expressing gratitude strengthens relationships. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a gratitude researcher, writes, “When you become truly aware of the value of your friends and family members, you are likely to treat them better, perhaps producing an ‘upward spiral,’ a sort of positive feedback loop, in which strong relationships give you something to be grateful for, and in turn fortifying those very same relationships.” Healthy relationships make us happy. How? According to the longest-running study on human development by Harvard University, the No. 1 predictor of health and happiness in a person’s life is the quality of their relationships.

4. If you receive gratefulness, you’re probably likely to pay it forward. If gratitude promotes benevolence, wouldn’t that make for a better world? Consider this: Expressing gratitude to a loved one or friend can lead him or her to pay it forward. Receiving appreciation makes us feel loved—feelings that can inspire us to initiate more positive and helpful actions toward others. As positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., wrote in her book The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, “Grateful people are more likely to help others [because] you become aware of kind and caring acts and feel compelled to reciprocate.” Write a thank-you text, handwritten note or email to someone who has been a positive force in your life. Remind yourself of one thing to be grateful for every morning before getting out of bed. Give genuine compliments to people you don’t know but who provide you with a good service, such as a waiter, teacher, nurse, etc.


Action Item:

Upon going to bed and waking up, think of one thing that you are grateful for. In addition, if not a grateful gram, take the time write and send a thank-you text or email or better yet, make a thank-you phone call or tell the person for whom you are thankful for in person.



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