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Gratitude: How Gratitude Makes You Happier

Oct 21, 2021

It can be hard to feel gratitude in a world where life is sometimes difficult and things are going wrong. But science tells us that gratitude is the way to a happier, more fulfilling life. The result of gratitude isn’t just superficial; it has the power to change your brain and create significant and lasting happiness.   

Related: How to Deal With Overwhelm in 2021

What is Happiness

Before we get to gratitude, what is this elusive state called happiness? A general definition of happiness is subjective. It is each person’s sense of fulfillment, well-being, contentment, and joy. Happiness isn’t just a momentary emotion; it is more profound, sustained, and not necessarily linked to achieving any goal or acquiring possessions or money.  

Happiness consists of two components:

  • Life Satisfaction. Although you may not have everything you want, you are satisfied with where you are in life and what you have achieved. This satisfaction spans all or most areas of your life - career, relationships, achievements, and anything else you consider important.
  • Balanced Emotions. While we all experience the broad spectrum of emotion, the state of happiness usually means that you experience more positive emotion than negative.  We also need to accept that our life is full of a range of emotions and the goal of 100% happiness is not possible and only sets us up for failure.  

It may be helpful to know when you are experiencing happiness. Of course, we think we would know, but here are a few signs to look for:

  • The conditions of your life feel good to you - not necessarily perfect, but good.
  • This is the life you wanted.
  • You are satisfied with your life.
  • You feel more positive than negative.

An essential thing to remember about happiness is that it doesn’t mean you’re always walking around with a grin on your face

How are things in your life and in your practice? If you’re a physician who feels overwhelming stress or burnout, we can help. Our life coaching services are just for you. Contact Deanna Larson MD to learn more.

What is Gratitude

As mentioned earlier, science tells us that gratitude is the path to happiness. But what is gratitude? Gratitude is a word derived from the Latin word gratia. It means grace or graciousness. To have gratitude means to live a life of appreciation for what you have, whether tangible or intangible. It is the intentional acknowledgment of all the goodness you regularly experience. Often, gratitude includes the possibility that there is an outside source of the good in your life. Many people feel even more gratitude as they sense a connection to something larger than themselves. This doesn’t have to be a religious experience (although it can be); it can also be a connection to nature or other people.  

Related: How to Say No When You’re Overwhelmed

Benefits of Gratitude: How it Makes You Happier

In addition to happiness, there are many other benefits to living a life of gratitude. Here are a few:

1 Boosts Self Esteem

The process of noticing and being grateful for all the good in your life includes seeing all the good that you have accomplished, all the good that you are, and all the people in your life who love you. This will boost your self-esteem.

2 Separates You From Negative Emotions

It’s not that you never feel any negative emotions, but gratitude will cause you to let go of negative emotions and self-defeating beliefs more quickly. It will keep you in a positive feedback loop.

3 Makes You Fun to Be Around

Gratitude keeps you in a positive mind space, and people enjoy being around positive people far more than negative ones. Grateful people are more social, nicer, trusting, and appreciative - all things that help us bond with other people in deeper relationships. 

4 Enhances Your Career

Gratitude will make you more appreciative of the efforts of the people around you and more sensitive to what is happening around you. Gratitude makes you more productive and increases your capacity to make good decisions. You’re also more apt to give genuine behavior-focused praise to your colleagues. 

5 Makes Your Love Life Better

One study showed that gratitude motivated people to do more of the things that strengthen romantic relationships, like showing appreciation for their partner, being prepared to openly discuss issues, and having more positive perceptions of their partner. 

6 Keeps You Calm

Gratitude reminds you that you have been in tough circumstances before and prevailed. You are more optimistic, calm, and relaxed in general, but especially when things get challenging. Gratitude will help you deal with stress and trauma.  

7 Improves Your Appearance

An attitude of gratitude may not put a silly grin on your face all day, but it will make you more pleasant. Though your lips aren’t smiling, you will have a smile in your eyes, and people find this kind of person more enjoyable to look at. You will appear less ruffled and a little more in control of yourself. 

8 Makes Your Feel Good

This one is obvious, but focusing on the good around you will lift your mood. You can acknowledge that everything isn’t perfect while feeling fantastic about all that is going well.

How to Have More Gratitude

Here are a few ways to express more gratitude in your life and reap the many benefits of being a happier person.

Acknowledge Your Blessings Daily

It may seem trivial, but notice and be thankful for the small things - that actually aren’t that small.

  • Your morning cup of coffee
  • Your bed, pillows, and cozy comforter. 
  • A clear glass of water to drink
  • The people you see daily who are kind 
  • The teachers at your child’s school who seem to care for your child genuinely
  • Your friends who have weathered many storms with you and whose company you enjoy
  • The person who gave way to you in traffic
  • Your brother is always there for you despite things they’re dealing with in their own life.

Think of all the little things that add up to make your great life.

Do Gratitude Exercises

Here are a few ideas of gratitude exercises you may enjoy.

  • Express appreciation to someone by sending them a card or phoning them.
  • Take a walk and be grateful for everything you see - flowers, trees, other people, animals, etc.
  • Make a gratitude jar or box. Whenever something good happens, write about it on a slip of paper and put it in your jar. Even if you never go back and read each slip of paper, you will feel grateful just watching the paper increase.
  • Send a letter of appreciation to someone who did something significant for you a long time ago. 
  • Take magazine pictures and create a collage of things for which you’re grateful. 
  • Keep a gratitude journal. You don’t have to write in it every day if you’re busy but contribute to it regularly. 

Related: Physician Burnout: Everything You Need to Know 

Final Thoughts on Gratitude

Gratitude is the path to a happier, healthier you. It helps you see your life in a more positive light, which causes you to look and feel better. You enjoy stronger romantic relationships, more success at work, deeper friendships, and calmer.  Let’s get grateful!  

If you’re a physician and you’re facing difficulties that challenge your gratitude, a life coach who understands your unique circumstances can restore your happiness. Contact Deanna Larson MD for more information. 

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