Right now is the perfect time to share the #1 lesson I learned from research conducted by Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California and one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude: Be grateful — and show it.
What being grateful can do for you. Being grateful is a reframing of your focus. You’ll value what you have in your life, not lust after things you don’t, and is an essential ingredient to happiness. Appreciation of others reconnects you to your own sense of peace and contentment. Like happiness, being grateful — and actually acting on it — reaps all kinds of positive benefits:
- better sleep
- more likely to exercise
- stronger immune system
- alleviates stress
- increased sense of belonging
- boosts sense of contentment and wellbeing
- creates more positive memories
- Increases productivity
And, the best result of showing gratitude is that your own level of happiness will increase significantly.
If you’re grateful and you know it . . . show it.
It’s so easy to feel and show gratitude in many different ways. Here are a few tried and true tips to feel the thanks and show the appreciation . . . all of which will make everyone a lot happier:
- Write a letter. Whatever you are grateful for, sending your thoughts in a written letter is a powerful statement. If you can deliver it personally, and read it out loud to the person, better still. Studies conducted by positive psychologist pioneer Martin Seligman showed that when people sent or read letters of gratitude to others who had not been properly thanked for past kindnesses, the letter-writers experienced a huge increase in happiness and a dramatic drop in depression.
- Give someone a compliment. Bring a moment of joy to someone else with a heartfelt word about something the other person has done, is wearing, or how she looks. Make another person glow, and you will feel good, too. Another benefit? People who have been complimented will often go on to compliment someone else, creating a chain of good will and good feelings.
- Buy a gift (for someone else). People who spend money on others rather than themselves feel happier at the end of the day, especially if the gift was “because I am grateful to have you in my life.” Tip: not expensive, just thoughtful.
- Make the gift yourself. When a close family relative was diagnosed with cancer, after visiting him and his family to offer comfort and support, I went home and whipped out my knitting needles. A few days later I delivered a soft, cozy “knitted hug” which made him feel a lot better. Red Heart Yarns, America’s most recommended brand of yarn, embarked on a campaign to encourage everyone to knit or crochet blankets and other handmade items and then donate to the American Red Cross for those in need. I’m proud to serve as spokesperson for the StitchaHug initiative.
- Create sacred rituals of gratitude. My oldest daughter, now a thriving college student, was a premature baby, born three months too early. Weighing at 2 1/2 pounds, she stayed in the hospital for many months. (This photo below shows me holding Sarah, while she was still at the hospital.) We’ve created an annual sacred ritual: the night before Thanksgiving my entire family visits the nurses who cared for her with boxes of cookies, which my daughters decorate with words of gratitude. It is our simple way of showing these lovely people who cared for our daughter (and her parents) how much we value them.
- Show appreciation to those who care for others. There are over 40 million caregivers in the U.S. who are overburdened and very stressed. If you have a family member, neighbor or friend who could use a little break–grocery shopping, seeing a movie, taking a nap–don’t wait for that person to ask you for help because chances are good, she won’t. Instead, do what AARP calls a Random Act of Kindness, and give your time and compassion to someone who could really use a break. Maybe even “knit a hug”?
Let’s keep the conversation going! How do you show gratitude to others?
Photos: Copyright Cathy Yeulet, via istockphoto.com; ABC News; Barbara Hannah Grufferman