“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”
– Eckhart Tolle
If you could cultivate one simple habit that can improve nearly every area of your life, would you do it? Gratitude is such a habit, one that impacts your happiness, lowers stress, improves measurable health markers, enriches relationships, and even has a positive effect on business and career. Gratitude and success in life go hand in hand. There is a lot to be grateful for when it comes to gratitude!
Perhaps no other habit can have so great an impact on your well-being with as little as five focused minutes per day. Even better—make gratitude a way of life! In this article, we’ll summarize some key findings of gratitude research, plus give you some tips for cultivating gratitude.
Gratitude Research: Everything Goes Better with Gratitude
We associate gratitude with Thanksgiving: a time of sharing and celebrating all of our blessings, and traditionally, the blessing of the harvest. However, if you focus on gratitude only in November, you have done yourself (and those around you) an enormous disservice!
The science of gratitude is compelling and overwhelming. Over 40 research studies on gratitude show benefits in almost every imaginable part of life. We are grateful for the longer compilation of gratitude research at HappierHuman.com and the work of gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, which we have drawn on extensively for this article. Some of their findings:
Gratitude makes you a happier, better-adjusted person.
Cultivating gratitude is a better way to live than dwelling on irritations or grievances, and now several studies prove it! Studies have demonstrated the positive impact of gratitude in diverse populations, from sixth and seventh graders to seniors diagnosed with chronic illnesses.
#1: Five minutes to happiness. A five-minute a day gratitude journal practice can increase long-term well-being by 10 to 25 percent. (That’s a larger increase in happiness was found by doubling one’s income, according to a study from the London School of Economics.)
Gratitude triggers positive feedback loops, and even a little can go a long way. Author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Robert Emmons found measurable benefits even when research participants wrote in gratitude journals once a week.
#2: Gratitude is more powerful than circumstance and influences biology. Whatever your usual disposition, gratitude can change it, according to Emmons’s research. Surprisingly, studies showed that circumstances only count for 10 percent of a person’s happiness level. 40 percent is influenced by intentional activity, such as gratitude journaling. A person’s natural set-point accounts for the remainder.
#3: Gratitude makes you more optimistic. Gratitude focuses our minds on the good and increases our belief that our future will contain more good.
“Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism. Optimism in turn makes us happier, improves our health, and has been shown to increase lifespan by as much as a few years,” reports HappierHuman.com. One study showed a 5 percent increase in optimism from keeping a weekly gratitude journal. In another, a daily gratitude journal resulted in a 15 percent increase!
#4: Gratitude makes your memories happier. Gratitude influences our perception of the future as well as the past. Our memories can change over time. Gratitude helps us remember past events more kindly, and makes us more likely to recall positive than negative memories. Even better, it can help us transform negative or neutral memories into positive memories by changing our interpretations of challenging events. One study found that putting people in a grateful mood could help them find closure for upsetting memories.
#5: Gratitude makes you more resilient. Those practicing gratitude are more likely to grow in times of stress, more likely to seek out social support when needed, and less likely to develop PTSD. Gratitude helps you bounce back when challenges arise.
#6: Gratitude reduces feelings of envy and a desire for materialism. It is difficult to experience conflicting emotions simultaneously. Therefore, being grateful for the good in one’s life makes you less likely to envy what someone else has. Gratitude helps us value what we already have.
Gratitude increases our social capital and improves relationships.
#7: Gratitude makes you friendlier and less self-centered. Multiple studies have shown that gratitude makes us more likely to help others with their problems and more likely to offer emotional support. It helps us perceive kindness and want to reciprocate. Gratitude also makes us happier and more energetic, which correlate to pro-social behavior.
#8: Gratitude makes you more likable. According to two studies, gratitude generates social capital.
“Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage,” summarizes HappyHuman.com.
#9: Gratitude helps you make friends and deepen existing friendships. Others gravitate towards positive people. And everyone likes to feel appreciated and loved. Grateful people are more likely to feel and express their appreciation of others.
#10: Gratitude helps your marriage. Research shows that spouses who are more likely to express appreciation rather than nag each other are far more likely to have happy, lasting relationships. The most successful marriages were those with a ratio of five or more positive expressions to each negative. However, it only takes 11% more negative than positive expressions to predict a marriage headed for trouble.
Gratitude makes you more successful.
Gratitude and success are virtually inseparable. We’ve seen that gratitude increases social capital and improves relationships and marriages, and these factors correlate with higher levels of income and wealth. Gratitude can also boost your career or business by helping to improve your success in critical areas.
#11: Gratitude makes you a more effective manager or business owner. One characteristic of an excellent manager is the ability to express praise. Timely, sincere, specific praise of desired behaviors has been proven to be far more effective than criticism. And praise does not diminish with time; repeat expressions of gratitude continue to positively impact employee performance.
Gratitude towards clients and customers is equally important for business owners. While many have “client appreciation” days, the most successful find ways to show appreciation regularly.
#12: Gratitude increases goal achievement. In one study, participants wrote down the goals which they wished to accomplish over two months. Those who were instructed to keep a gratitude journal reported more progress on achieving their goals during the study.
#13: Gratitude increases productivity. By increasing confidence and decreasing insecurity, gratitude helps people stay focused on their work or business goals. Grateful people are less likely to be distracted by worries.
#14: Gratitude increases self-esteem. Self-esteem is important for happiness, success, and positive relationships. By influencing people to be kinder and friendlier, gratitude increases social capital. This makes grateful people more likely to be liked and appreciated, and consequently, more likely to receive help from others. This in turn fuels self-esteem in an upward spiral.
Greater self-esteem enables successful people to take necessary risks and interpret “failure” as a learning experience.
#15: Gratitude helps you network. The proven increases in social capital and self-esteem makes grateful people much better networkers. Gratitude also helps you get mentors, proteges, and benefactors. Says the Simply Human blog,
“Those who are more grateful are more likely to help others, and to pay it forward, that is, to take on mentoring relationships… (and) having one or more mentors dramatically increases one’s success rate.
“The first level is simple – those who are grateful are more social and also more likely to ask for help….
“Flipped around, what is it that makes a person want to help you on a continuous basis? Gratitude – when their wisdom, experience, and time are well appreciated, mentors will find enjoyment from the process, continuing to help you for weeks, months, or years.”
Gratitude makes you healthier.
#16: Gratitude improves physiological functioning. It improves your outlook on life and lowers stress, both which are correlated with better health outcomes. Practicing gratitude is correlated with lower blood pressure, fewer aches and pains, and a stronger immune system. Gratitude activates the parasympathetic nervous system (important for stress reduction). Gratitude also encourages healthy behavior such as exercise.
#17: Gratitude improves health outcomes. If you do have a health crisis, gratitude has been shown to improve pain management, increase coping, and help patients recover faster.
#18: Gratitude improves your sleep. Writing in a gratitude journal is a proven effective way to increase the quality and duration of your sleep. Feeling grateful changes what your mind is focused on, lowering stress and anxiety—two sleep killers. Gratitude also helps you fall asleep much faster than listening to the news or engaging with technology before sleep!
With or without the evening gratitude journal, participants who had higher scores on a gratitude test also had significantly better sleep. Even when challenges arise, grateful people are less likely to let the challenges keep them up at night.
#19: Gratitude helps you relax and achieve “coherence.” Gratitude and positive emotion in general help us relax. Combined with slow, deep breathing, gratitude has been shown by the HeartMath Institute to induce a state known as coherence. Coherence is characterized by optimum heart rate variability (with correlates with many positive health markers) and harmony in our physiological and psychological processes. The chart below demonstrates differences in heart rate variability patterns:
#20: Gratitude increases energy levels. Gratitude and vitality are strongly correlated. Grateful people are much more likely to report physical and mental vigor, even when controlling for additional factors such as extroversion. People with high levels of vitality tend to share certain traits with highly grateful people, such as high levels of optimism and life satisfaction.
Grateful people may also be more likely to exercise. One eleven-week study of 96 Americans showed that those who kept a weekly gratitude journal exercised 40 minutes longer each week than the control group.
#21: Gratitude may extend life expectancy. Although no study has yet proven the link between gratitude and longevity, this conclusion can be extracted from research that shows optimism and positive emotion are correlated with longer life spans. How much longer? A minimum of a few months and possibly a few years.
Your Gratitude Practice
Since gratitude improves your success in virtually all areas of life, doesn’t it make sense to practice it regularly?
To get started, be more consistent, or expand your gratitude practice:
1. Keep a gratitude journal by your bed to write in each morning when you arise, and/or before you go to sleep. You can use a blank journal, or if you appreciate prompts, try The Five Minute Journal or The 90-Day Gratitude Journal.
2. Don’t keep gratitude to yourself! Express appreciation to your family, friends, and work colleagues regularly through words—spoken or written—and deeds.
3. Practice being grateful for not only the positive things, but also the things you find challenging.
4. Begin meetings and gathering by asking everyone to share a positive focus—something they are grateful for.
5. Waiting in line or stuck in traffic? Don’t get mad—use the extra moments to count your blessings.
6: Practice “pro-active gratitude” by visualizing your goals accomplished and feeling the gratitude!
Why are we writing about gratitude?
The Prosperity Economics Movement isn’t just about helping people with their finances… we want you to have the best, happiest, healthiest, most fulfilling LIFE possible! Having a prosperity mindset is an important part of that. So are financial strategies which—like gratitude—will improve your results, decrease your stress, and show you a better path! Find out more about Prosperity Economics today, and if you don’t already have a Prosperity Economics Advisor, contact us for personalized help with your finances.