mother and daughter dancing

Gratitude Can Change Your Life

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

Dear Happiness Seekers,

How often do you take the time to reflect on the good things in your life and appreciate them? Maybe it takes a series of bad events or a series of good events. But what about the average day? In every life, there’s a lot to be grateful for, and practicing gratitude can have numerous positive effects on your life.

Possible benefits of practicing gratitude include emotional, social, career, personality, and health benefits.

Emotional – More positive feelings, increased ability to relax, be resilient, be less envious, and store more positive memories.

Social – Increased desire to be social, to create deeper, more numerous relationships, be healthier, and be kinder.

Career РIncreased ability to achieve goals, improved networking ability, better management skills, improved decision making, and increased productivity.

Personality РLess materialistic, increased ability to focus on others rather than self, more optimistic,  increased self-esteem, and more spiritual.

Health – Improved sleep, less sick, increased longevity, increased energy, and increased likelihood of exercising.

So how do you go about being more grateful? I’ve kept a gratitude journal for almost a year now wherein I reflect on and write about the positive things that have happened in my life recently, both things I earned and kindnesses I gave, but also the kindnesses that others gave me. Being grateful for the things you give yourself is important, but the true secret to increased happiness is appreciating the kindesses that find you unexpectedly. You’ll also be more likely to give those kindnesses to others if you appreciate them in your own life.

If you’re not sure how to get started on the path to gratitude, try these tips for keeping a gratitude journal:

  1. Don’t just go through the motions of reflecting and writing down. You have to make a concentrated effort to be grateful and increase your own happiness.
  2. Pick a couple of events to detail in depth rather than writing a little bit about a lot of things. A superficial list of things isn’t going to help you feel any better.
  3. Focus on people you are thankful for more often than things.
  4. Reflect on what your life would look like without certain things or people that you have.
  5. Write about surprises, as those elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  6. Write occasionally, like once a week rather than everyday. This will force you to focus on the good things as they happen so that you’ll remember them later when you go to write in your gratitude journal.

It doesn’t take such a commitment as keeping a gratitude journal to make an effort to appreciate the good things in your life. Take a moment before bed to reflect on your day and be thankful. Do a meditation where you focus on being grateful. Do a random act of kindness for others. You will notice a difference, and so will others (including your supervisor!).

Sources: Happier Human, Greater Good