If the word ‘gratitude’ has popped up as a hashtag in the captions of one-too-many Valencia-filtered sunset shots for you to take seriously, then hear this: There is a lot more to the G-word than its association with golden hour vacation Instagrams and that LA restaurant chain.
Derived from the Latin word gratia, Harvard University defines gratitude as: ’A thankful appreciation for what an individual receives - whether tangible or intangible.’
Advocates of a daily gratitude practice highlight its power to improve your happiness by positively impacting factors like our health, personality and career, as well as improving the quality of our social and emotional lives. It’s an area that’s being increasingly explored within academic research, with studies linking experiencing gratitude with increased life satisfaction, vitality, hope, and optimism.
According to University of Montana communication studies professor, Stephen M. Yoshimura, people who experience and express gratitude on the regular also experienced decreased levels of depression, anxiety, envy, job-related stress and burnout. And the benefits transcend the mental realm, too – those gratitude hype sorts also report fewer symptoms of physical illness, more exercise, and better quality of sleep.
So, an attitude of gratitude is ultimately something worth cultivating (suspend your eye rolling, please.) As to how you do that? As well as taking up writing down three things you’re thankful for on any given day before you go to bed, as a way to disconnect and to aid easing your way into sleep, try the three science-backed strategies below.
1 / With friends and family
Remembering to say ‘thank you’ for holiday gifts can be hard enough, but what about the bigger things - the kind acts and words that have been formative in your life?
Researchers from the Chicago Booth School of Business and the University of Texas discovered that what holds many of us back from acknowledging these is a sense that the recipient might feel awkward at their show of appreciation.
Through their 2017 study, they discovered a wide disconnect between the senders’ concerns and the high levels of happiness recipients actually felt.
The bottom line? Tell someone how much they mean to you. And, if you feel awkward, just remember how you’d feel if someone did the same to you.
2 / At work
While thanking team members might seem like another job to add to your admin pile, it could seriously amp up your department’s productivity.
University of Pennsylvania researchers discovered this after doing an experiment where a group of university fundraisers were randomly divided into two groups: one calling alumni to raise donations in the usual manner and the other doing so after receiving a pep talk from a department director, who told the fund-raisers that she was grateful for their efforts.
The week after, university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fundraising calls than those who operated without it. Take note, managers.
3 / With your partner (if you’re in a romantic relationship)
Expressing and receiving gratitude within your relationship will not only make you feel more positive about that person, you’ll be more at home expressing concerns about the relationship, too.
That was the take-home message from a study by Brigham Young University professor Nathaniel M Lambert and Professor Frank D Fincham, from Florida State University. The theory being that the more you’re shown to be appreciated by your partner, the more secure you’ll feel when having the less-than-ideal sort of chat about something that might need to change.
The researchers call this ‘relationship maintenance behaviour’. A phrase that’s probably not going to end up as a hashtag anytime soon…
by Claudia Canavan & Roisín Dervish-O’Kane, @allupinyourfeelings