Gratitude is a Happiness Practice

By Eric Spencer on December 11, 2017

Posted by Eric Spencer | December 11, 2017Gratitude is a Happiness PracticeThere’s been a groundswell of work in the ‘positive psychology’ space lately. Researchers like Shawn Achor (Harvard) and Dan Gilbert (Harvard) are focused on happiness, and what actually triggers and drives happiness in humans. Achor’s Six Exercises for Happiness are grounded in gratitude, and show that these practices actually change the size of the neural pathways in the human brain! Practicing gratitude makes it easier to notice what we are grateful for, in that we are continually scanning the world for what is positive.Robert Emmons (UC Davis) is focused largely on gratitude and the effects that gratitude has on the human condition. He notes that practicing gratitude enables us to be more present, blocks negative emotions, increases resilience, and actually strengthens our connections with others.Finding BeautyFor some of us, just noticing the beautiful things in our work-a-day experience can make a huge difference. I will often challenge myself (and others) to find beautiful things in their days and photograph them. I go on “beauty hunts” all the time, photograph my results, and post them with an explanation of why I found these particular things beautiful. While anecdotal, I can tell you that when I do this, it has a noticeable effect on my day and my disposition.Taking ActionIf a grateful heart is a healthier heart, what can you do? It’s not that hard, really. Here are a few practical tips for bringing gratitude into focus:Make it Part of Your Day – Just take a couple of minutes each day to formally reflect on what you’re grateful for. Whether that’s a moment of meditation or self-reflection, or a shared ritual with friends or family. Take the time to make it an “official” part of your routine. When my children were younger (and around more often for dinnertime), we would begin the meal by stating one thing that we were grateful for that day. It was a simple way to connect with each other about the things that mattered to us all in our lives at that moment. Relationships were strengthened, neural pathways enlarged, and hearts, healthier.Write it Down – As noted in the Mills study above, the practice of writing down things for which you are thankful has a marked impact on your physical health. Whether you do that the old fashioned way with a new Moleskine notebook (Confession: I have a journal fetish, I buy them all the time. I just love cracking open a new one and writing in it. I have way too many unfinished journals.), or you have brought your journaling into the 21st Century – writing matters. Make it part of your life.As Your Mom Said When You Were a Kid – SLOW DOWN! – We eat every day, and we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how we eat. We have gotten a lot better about what we eat, now that the little sign lets you know that that salad actually has 1140 calories. However, we run from event to event and we eat on the go, a lot. Slowing down and being grateful for the food that you’re eating, its origin story, and even the presentation of it can have dramatic effect. I remember reading The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, (one of my top five favorite books) in undergrad; in the book, ole Socrates makes a big deal about this…it’s been part of my routine ever since.Go On A “Beauty Hunt”  – Go out and discover five things that you find beautiful during your day. Photograph them, post them, and explain why you find them beautiful. Posting them will bring other people into your circle and provide something beautiful for them as well. Think of it as a digital “pay it forward,” and you may just inspire others to do the same.Hug It Up – Research shows that human contact increases our oxytocin levels. Higher oxytocin levels help us deal with stress, feel less anxious, and change our body physiology – proving that hugs are freaking SCIENCE and not just “touchy-feely!” Hug more, and if you’re at work, just be sure to do it in an HR-appropriate way.In Gratitude…Thank you all for taking the time to make it all the way to the end of this blog post! I’m grateful for every set of eyeballs that find their way here.Now, get out there and make yourself healthier (and happier) by making someone else’s day!Related ArticlesTags »Emotional IntelligenceGratitude Share
Go Back