Grateful, thankful, blessed. A social media staple post. With Thanksgiving bringing us together today, I cannot think of a better time to talk about gratitude!
As many self-help gurus, blogs, books and videos talk about attributing gratefulness as a means to acquire more in your life, I got a little curious as to what could be behind that.
So, for starters, we really like grateful people and we really dislike ungrateful people.
In a study of over 800 words, ‘Grateful’ was in the top 4% of likeable words and ‘ungrateful’ in the bottom 1.7%.
So who are these grateful people we like so much?
As per the study on gratitude, grateful people tend to have these four characteristics.
- Not narcissistic
- Appreciation of the “little things” in life
- Have an internal locus of control
- Intrinsically religious
Meaning that our favorite grateful people, don’t usually think of themselves all the time, they appreciate sunsets and smiles, feel like they are in control of their lives and not that their circumstance is attributed to the outside world, and people who see or practice religion as a means to get closer with the divine and not for tag value, or social value.
So wait, does that mean these grateful people, who we like, are so much happier than the rest of the narcissistic-external-locus-of-control-having-extrinsically-religious folk?
The answer to this is much like the age old chicken and the egg question. Are we grateful because we are happy and are able to be thankful for the little things? Or are we happy because we are grateful for people and circumstances in our life?
Whatever your stance on this idea, there is a correlation between the two. So being more grateful could promote happiness, and being happier can promote gratitude.
But, more concretely being grateful can enhance your mood!
In the same study 104 students from East Washington University were primed to either remember experiences during the summer they were grateful for, or remember times where they missed out on experience. Of these students, the ones who were primed for gratefulness had a vast positive difference in their mood. They were happier than their peers who were primed for resentment.
And now I know what you’re thinking, ‘Duh. We all don’t like to think about the times we didn’t get to do what we wanted to do. That’s just common sense.”
So that brings me to my next question.
If gratefulness repairs mood, which method promotes the apex of grateful mood repair?
In another study of 157 students, each student was given three grateful exercises.
- Think of someone you are grateful is alive.
- Write about someone who you are grateful for.
- Write a letter to someone you are grateful for.
Out of these three, the first, just simply thinking about the person you are grateful is alive made the students the happiest. While writing a letter to this person, harbored the least positive effects.
Other studies say that writing down positive experiences help with mood repair, by writing it down you are replaying that moment in your mind and essentially reliving it. So, maybe writing down an experience that made you feel grateful opposed to just writing a letter to the person could help promote gratitude and happiness.
Feeling grateful yet?
I think we can all be grateful for the people and things we have in our lives. What we know about human nature is, the more we are accustomed to feeling a certain way (much like a muscle) we will get stronger in that sense and then create a baseline unless we don’t move onto different methods.
So how do we get away from the baseline or isolate the muscle? Look at gratefulness in a different way.
Make gratitude a habit!
The self-help-God himself, Tim Ferriss, wrote about his morning rituals as well as dedicating an episode on his podcast, The Tim Ferris Show, to those rituals. One of those morning acts includes Journaling. Apart of that journal entry includes writing something you are grateful for. As I mentioned before most of us can get into a baseline with gratitude. We would start, like Tim, writing the same things over and over. “Grateful for :My family, My Friends, My Pet.” So how do we put a new spin on the way we look for gratitude in our lives? Tim reminds himself of these questions everyday:
- “An old relationship that really helped you, or that you valued highly.
- An opportunity you have today. Perhaps the opportunity to connect with your family, or go to work, or learn something. It doesn’t have to be anything large.
- Something great that happened yesterday. Regardless if you experienced it or witnessed it.
- Something simple or near you, within sight. Your phone, a cloud, the sunshine. “
This morning act incorporates all the gratitude ideals we have talked about thus far. Getting into this habit of noticing or feeling thankful for the plenty we have already can put us in a better mood and remind us not only on Thanksgiving that we have things to be thankful for.
So if you made it this far, I hope you learned something on gratitude. Maybe, even feeling a little more grateful, thankful and blessed.