EXPRESS GRATITUDE by Dr. Mercola
According to the Harris Poll Happiness Index, a mere 1 in 3 Americans report being "very happy." More than half say they're frustrated at or by work.1 Other research suggests nearly 1 in 4 experience no life enjoyment at all.2 The good news is, small changes in perspective and/or behavior can add up, and practicing gratitude may be at the top of the list of strategies known to boost happiness and life satisfaction.
In "The Little Book of Gratitude," Robert Emmons notes, "We did not … get to where we are in life by ourselves. So, living in gratitude is living in truth. It is the most accurate and honest approach to life." According to Emmons, gratitude involves "affirming the good and recognizing its sources. It is the understanding that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift."
Gratitude is also a form of generosity, because it involves offering or extending "something" to another person, even if it's only a verbal affirmation of thanks. After all, it's not yourself you are grateful for but rather something or someone outside of yourself. And generosity has also been shown to augment happiness. In fact, generosity and happiness are neurally linked. As noted by the authors of a recent study:3,4
"[W]e predicted that the neural link between generosity and happiness would involve functional interactions between brain regions engaged in generous behavior [temporoparietal junction (TPJ)] and those mediating happiness (ventral striatum). The results confirmed our hypotheses.
We found significantly higher levels of generous behavior and happiness, as reflected by greater TPJ activity for generous choices and generosity-related connectivity of the TPJ with striatal happiness regions in the experimental group.
We thus conclude that the interplay of these brain regions links commitment-induced generosity with happiness … [T]he amount spent did not matter … [E]ven little things have a beneficial effect — like bringing coffee to one's office mates in the morning."
Commit to Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
If your happiness could use a boost, this year, commit to cultivating an attitude of gratitude — every day. Gratitude not only paves the way to life satisfaction, research has also demonstrated it is the single best predictor of good relationships, and benefits both sanity and physical health. Enhancing your well-being, then, may be as simple as taking the time each day to reflect on what you're thankful for.
A simple and proven way of doing this is to keep a gratitude journal, in which you document the things you're grateful for each day. In one study,5 participants who kept a gratitude diary and reflected on what they were grateful for just four times a week for three weeks improved their depression, stress and happiness scores.
A mindfulness intervention, consisting of a mindfulness diary and mindfulness meditation, led to similar improvements. In another study, people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and had fewer visits to the doctor.6
The Many Health Benefits of Gratitude by Dr. Mercola
Aside from augmenting happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude also produces measurable effects on a number of bodily systems, including beneficial effects on mood and pleasure-related neurotransmitters, reproductive and social bonding hormones, cognition, blood pressure and more. Importantly, it lowers the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory cytokines, which are often elevated if you have chronic disease. Health benefits associated with gratitude include:7,8