One of the biggest tragedies in American society isn’t just the lack of gratitude felt, but the failure to express it. Showing our thankfulness is one of the healthiest actions we can take for ourselves – but it might also be just the thing our loved ones need, too. William Arthur Ward once wrote: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
Gratitude Breeds Happiness
A group did a small study analyzing levels of happiness. The participants were instructed to write about someone for whom they were grateful. The participants didn’t know it at the time, but they were also going to call those people and read the letters aloud. The informal study showed that the participants were happier after expressing gratitude than they were beforehand. But there have also been more formal studies.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examining the impact of thankfulness on happiness. During the experiment, participants were divided into three groups. Each was instructed to keep daily journals on gratitude, annoyances, or neutral events. At the end of the ten-week study, those who were directed to write about events they appreciated reported that they had fewer physical ailments and were more optimistic. The group who wrote about annoyances were noticeably less happy, and the neutral group stayed, well, neutral.
Health Benefits of Gratitude
It has been shown that gratefulness can:
- Improve your immune system.
- Reduce depression.
- Make you mentally tougher.
- Help you get better sleep.
When you’re thankful, you are better equipped to deal with stress and negative events that occur in your life. It does not eliminate negative emotions, but it helps you handle them in a healthier way.
One study examined Vietnam War veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One group was told to keep a gratitude journal while the other was not. Not surprisingly, the diary-keeping vets dealt with their symptoms far better.
How to Practice Gratitude
Many people keep a gratitude journal. They write three to five things for which they are grateful at the beginning or end of their day. starting this routine can bring many great benefits to your everyday life, but if you truly want to experience the life-changing nature of Thanksgiving, you might want to go further than just writing about it. The true power of gratitude comes from expressing it to the people who have positively affected your life.