British philosopher, writer, and literary critic GK Chesterton wrote: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” (from A Short History of England, 59).
In 1917, when Chesterton first published these words, there was no scientific research to back up his ideas. A little more than 100 years later, however, his ideas have been proven over and over again in numerous scientific studies and by immeasurable individuals throughout the world—and from every walk of life—who have practiced gratitude and found happiness in doing so.
Here are six of more than a dozen scientifically proven benefits of practicing gratitude:
1. Gratitude helps you develop new relationships.
A study published in the journal Emotion in 2015 found that the simple act of saying thank you to a new acquaintance increases the likelihood that he or she will work to develop a relationship with you.
2. Gratitude improves your mental and physical health.
A study published in 2013 found that people who regularly practice gratitude self-report that they are more physically healthy than when they did not practice gratitude. There could be a number of reasons for this, but the obvious one is that people who practice gratitude also have better mental health. Being mentally healthy allows a person to exercise more, get out of the house more, and actively work toward improving their physical health.
3. Gratitude improves your sleep.
A study published in 2011 found that university students who engaged in the active practice of gratitude (counting blessings, making a list of things to be grateful for, and writing thank-you notes) exhibited less anxiety and better sleep habits than those who didn’t practice gratitude on daily basis. It seems that gratitude relaxed the mind, which made falling asleep come more easily and more quickly. Sleep was also reported to be more restful.
4. Gratitude builds resilience.
Resilience is a great indicator of good mental health and a reliable predictor of happiness. Several studies during the past three decades have shown that practicing gratitude reduces stress during trials and helps individuals overcome (or work through) trauma more easily. Finding something to be thankful for during the worst of life’s trials builds resilience and enables you to move forward.
5. Gratitude strengthens feelings of self-worth.
A fascinating study several years ago found that athletes who demonstrated gratitude during practice, competitions, and interactions with their coach reported increased self-esteem and trust in their coaches. This, in turn, led the athletes to perform better and feel more satisfied with their performance, regardless of their results.
6. Gratitude builds empathy, while also decreasing aggression.
A growing body of research has demonstrated that people who practice gratitude are more adept at navigating social situations, even when those situations involve stress or interactions with difficult individuals. Gratitude enables a person to put themselves in another’s shoes, thus building empathy and encouraging the grateful person to react without anger or violence.
Developing gratitude takes some time, but it costs absolutely nothing and increases happiness exponentially.
Here are six simple ways to start your own practice of gratitude:
1. Write a thank-you note.
Start a tradition of writing a thank-you note every week or every month. Think of someone in your past or present who you can thank and write them a short, heart-felt note.
2. Think about people you are grateful for.
Simply thinking about someone who has done something for you can also help foster gratitude. As you think about the person, review in your mind the events that took place and let yourself remember how you felt in that moment.
3. Make a gratitude journal.
Take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down 2 or 3 things you are grateful for.
4. Count your blessings.
This can go hand in hand with your gratitude journal or be a separate task you do each week.
Several studies have shown that regular prayer increases gratitude. Perhaps this is because expressing gratitude in prayer becomes a daily reminder that there is much to be thankful for.
6. Serve someone.
A small act of kindness can go a long way toward fostering gratitude. This is because gratitude has a way of bouncing back and forth between individuals: when you serve someone else, they tend to express gratitude for your service, which in turn makes you feel grateful that you chose to do something positive.
Essential Oil Tips
On a recent Emotions Mentor podcast, I spoke with wellness guru and aromatherapy expert Vanessa Ovens about the life-changing power of gratitude. Vanessa is a strong believer in using essential oils to foster gratitude.
As you begin your own journey toward being grateful, try out Vanessa’s favorite blend to support your efforts:
Alternatively, combine 10 drops each in a 10 mL roller bottle and top off with your favorite carrier oil. Roll blend over your wrists and inhale throughout the day.