Do you ever wonder why grateful people are happy people? Well, you are in for a treat today as my friend Wendy de Jong who blogs at “The Gratfulist“ shares with us some nuggets of truth about gratitude. I love the tools she leaves us with to start a gratitude practice. She continually inspires me with her words to want to live a life that starts with being thankful.
Why Grateful People Are Happy People
“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
You might have seen this quote float around on Pinterest. It piqued your interest, and then you probably scrolled past it.
When you think about it, though, this quote holds great promise. What I know for sure is that gratitude makes us joyful. I know this from personal experience. (I’ll tell you a little more about that later.) But there’s also scientific evidence showing the causal relationship between gratitude and happiness. Don’t trust me, trust science.
When you think of people that are grateful, you probably think of people like Oprah or Richard Branson. They’re rich and successful. They’re thought leaders with a huge following. So, they must be grateful, right?
You would think that happiness leads to gratitude. That’s what we’ve been conditioned to think. If only we’d have a nice house, a new car, a successful career, and an exciting relationship, we will be happy as a result. And when we have all of those things and are happy, then – and only then – we’ll have something to be grateful for.
But, as you know, it doesn’t really work like this. When you’ve achieved something – like buying a car you’ve been saving for years or creating a new product for your business – you immediately set your sights on the next goal. That’s okay. It’s human nature to keep wanting to do better for yourself.
However, the downside is that happiness is continuously out of reach.
Also, when you’re constantly striving for bigger and better, it’s easy to lose sight of the things you have now and take them for granted. When happiness seems elusive, there’s no room for gratitude.
That’s the struggle for most of us, isn’t it?
Gratitude and happiness: do you have it backwards?
Scientists have figured out that the way we think about gratitude and happiness is backwards. Yes, there’s a causal relationship between happiness and gratitude. But, surprisingly, the relationship that science has found to be true isn’t ‘happiness leads to gratitude’ but ‘gratitude leads to happiness’.
Gratitude is the largest contributor to happiness. Robert Emmons in his book ‘Thanks!’ describes how gratitude has been found to increase happiness by a whopping 25% and overall well-being by 8%. You read that right. Gratitude CAUSES happiness.
If you want to be happier in one or more areas of your life (who doesn’t?), starting a daily gratitude practice is the way to go.
Starting your gratitude practice
Convinced? If you’re ready to let a bit of gratitude in your life, here are a few tips.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
A gratitude journal is the most well-known and commonly used form of practicing gratitude. I started practicing gratitude almost five years ago using a gratitude journal. Each night I write down three things I’m grateful for that day.
When I started my gratitude practice, I was in a bad place. I was depressed, lonely, and unhappy. Writing down three things I was grateful for – which takes just one minute to do – was about the only thing I felt like I could set my mind to. Over time, I’ve found that practicing gratitude has changed my mindset and perspective. I’m more content. I’ve started noticing, appreciating, and savoring the beauty in everyday moments.
There are many different ways and methods for practicing gratitude – too many to describe here. If you’re not sure if writing a gratitude list or keeping a gratitude journal is for you, take a look at some alternatives here.
Stop Taking Things for Granted
If a formal gratitude practice isn’t for you, you could integrate gratitude into your everyday life. Make it your intention to look at things, events, nature, or people in a new light. Stop taking them for granted. If you can look at even the most basic things as a blessing, you’ll find that your life becomes lighter and happier.
Another piece of advice I can give you when it comes to gratitude is to look beyond the surface. By going deeper, you can see so much more than you’ve initially thought possible.
You can be grateful for the tree in your backyard because it’s gorgeously green. That’s fine. But can you think of other reasons to be grateful for that beautiful tree? That the tree contributes to a beautiful scenery, that it shades you from the sun and protects you from the rain, that it houses a few bird nests, that it’s an example of perseverance because a tree literally and figuratively weathers any storm, that it’s an example of hope because a tree loses its leaves every fall but it also grows new leaves every spring. Maybe you can think of better examples than these.
With Thanksgiving coming up later this month, starting a gratitude practice is an excellent way to extend your gratitude throughout the year. Practicing gratitude has a lot of benefits. One major benefit is that it makes you a happier person.
Remember that quote “It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” Next time you see it on your Pinterest timeline, you’ll know from personal experience how true it is.
What are you grateful for today? Share three things you’re grateful for in the comments.
Please meet my friend –
Wendy de Jong is a recovering perfectionist on a mission to help fellow creatives let go of their perfectionism and embrace their perfectly imperfect selves. She’s a book-oholic, a homemade pizza aficionado, and driving around in her bright red convertible car is her latest guilty pleasure. She took a break from a Scandal-binge on Netflix (gasp!) to create The Gratitude Toolbox, a free set of resources to help you jumpstart a successful and sustainable gratitude practice.