How Being Grateful Can Change Your Life

It's not just for Oprah devotees. Recent studies show that practicing gratitude can positively impact your life--and researchers believe it may help us break our bad habits.

Keeping track of what you are grateful for may sound like like something Oprah Winfrey suggested decades ago.

But today, several new studies suggest that practicing gratitude isn’t just for the Pollyannas of the world. Here are three benefits to being grateful:

You’re helping other people.

Gratitude is about focusing on other people, says Dr. Jo-Ann Tsang, a psychology professor at Baylor University, who led a study which will appear in the July 2014 issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“Previous research that we and others have done finds that people are motivated to help people that help them--and to help others as well. We’re social creatures, and so focusing on others in a positive way is good for our health,” Tsang said in a statement.

You’re focusing on what you have, rather than on what you don’t.

Tsang’s coauthor, Dr. James Roberts, a marketing professor at Baylor University, says materialists are less happy partly because they have difficulty being grateful for what they have. “As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier, we simply raise our reference point,” Roberts said in a statement. “That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the Treadmill of Consumption. We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

You’re more patient.

In another study, researchers from Harvard, Northeastern University, and the University of California-Riverside found participants who practiced gratitude were more patient than their less grateful counterparts.

In that study, which appears in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, participants were given the opportunity to receive immediate cash or wait for a larger check that would be mailed later. Prior to making their selection, participants were randomly assigned to write about an event that made them grateful, happy, or neutral.

Those who recalled feeling grateful showed more willpower and opted for the larger check. The findings suggest a connection between gratitude and long-term thinking, which may assist in helping people quit smoking, lose weight, and spend money responsibly.

Hat tip: Baylor University, Harvard Business Review, Association for Psychological Science

[Image: Flickr user Nomadic Lass]

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12 Comments

  • Nilofar Saleem

    Right ! Very few people care to be grateful . They selfishly get the help ,favors, support etc.etc. But never bother to be thankful ,they do not even acknowledge it. To my mind they actually harm their own person. We should help others with love ,and be grateful to those who came forward to help us when we were in need.

  • I kept a gratitude journal over a period that was very difficult for me and I think it was a life saver!! It also helps to work out your core values and what really matters for you in life. I recommend this for everyone and especially leaders and managers at work and at home. It can change and energise a workplace culture. Even today I think "gratitude" and remind myself daily about those things that I appreciate and are working well.

  • Gratitude is the process of training our mind to be in the present and love the moment. What if we loved what we have and focused on connection rather than focus on wanting more.

  • Being grateful means having learned to be still during a busy day and appreciating what you have right at that moment, whatever it is. The world can make even the most optimistic of us weary but being grateful is what leads us to success whether professionally or in our personal life... http://madelienerose.com/

  • Technology helps me sustain my gratitude practice! Needing to fill my OWN cup up, my self-care was lacking (as many Moms & Mompreneurs!) If you want a free tool that will randomly text you gratitude prompts, love notes, and accountability check ins that YOU write from your SOUL voice or your "highest & best self"...then check out http://www.MyGratitudeBuddy.com It helps me connect DAILY with myself & increases my gratitude & mindfulness. This video shows you how to set up texts for yourself! http://youtu.be/_F-Z76Z41h0

  • Jon D. Andre

    I found this to be true from personal experience - the meditation course I took had two exercises that cultivated the feeling of being grateful. First, get a notebook and every day write down 3 things you are grateful for - they don't have to be huge, they can be simple. Refer back to that notebook often - every week, you will have added 20+ new things! Second, do one act of kindness a day - help someone, email/write somebody and tell them thank you for the effect they had on your life, offer a kind word to someone; the key is to make a focused effort to do one thing every day. It really works. (credit to the meditationshift course for the ideas: thetadprinciple.com)

  • Abila Savithri

    Sympathy, empathy, gratitude, being grateful, adoring, Love towards Beings, helpful- all these are great qualities , rather a-must qualities in a man/woman and it should be habituated from the childhood.

    An example: A Boy with his mother visited The Mother Theresa's home for the Destitute s. Later in life, after a good education and a dream job in US, fell in love. During the discussion about Marriage, he asked her: " will you accept an Orphan as our first child and then we can have another child from our own? If you accept for it we can proceed or else depart as mere friends"

    That Lady too admired his qualities and got married is a different story