Science consistently shows that those who are more optimistic and express gratitude often experience less sickness and have a longer life expectancy. Time to choose reasons to being happy!
It’s easy to nit-pick others’ behavior, find faults in prominent leaders’ decisions, and voice your opinion behind the security of a screen… but not only do most people find negativity an unattractive trait, it might even be throwing off your health and reducing your life expectancy.
Forget for a moment the Law of Attraction and invested interest you might have in sending only good thoughts ‘out to the universe’, your body here and now hears every word you think and say, and is a reflection of your healthy attitude or not.
In fact, scientific evidence is conclusive when it comes to mood, outlook, and health. Happy people live up to 10 years longer than unhappy people, and optimists have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimists. Considering heart disease ranks as one of the top causes of death in developed nations, being thankful (and in effect raising your mood by appreciating what you have) is not just to invite more pleasant company into your life, but is necessary for optimal health.
The How of Happiness
Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, teaches how 50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point, something we can’t influence very much, 10% is based on our life circumstances (such as getting a promotion, finding ‘The One’, or achieving a creative dream), and 40% is “intentional activity” that we can influence with our behavior.
This means that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives just by choosing to conjure emotions of fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure. One of the key “intentional activities” to achieve this is the act of gratitude.
Research shows that consistently grateful people are happier, more energetic, more hopeful, more helpful, more empathetic, more spiritual, more forgiving, and less materialistic. It is also clear they are less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, neurotic, or sick.
Yeah, but where’s the evidence?
In one study, a group of participants were asked to name five things they were grateful for every day, while another group was asked to list five hassles. Those who expressed gratitude were not only happier and more optimistic, they reported fewer physical symptoms (such as headache, cough, nausea, or acne). Other gratitude studies have shown that those with chronic illnesses demonstrate clinical improvement when practicing regular gratitude.
Also, when a website asked depressed people to list grateful thoughts on the site daily, they were found to be significantly less depressed by the end of the study when compared to depressed people who weren’t asked to express gratitude. As depression is a significant risk factor for disease, this study may be extremely beneficial for those who are presently suffering.
What are some of the benefits one might expect?
According to Dr. Lyubomirsky, gratitude:
- Promotes savoring of positive life experiences
- Bolsters self-worth and self-esteem
- Helps people cope with stress and trauma
- Encourages caring acts and moral behavior
- Helps build social bonds, strengthen existing relationships, and nurture new relationships (and we know lonely people have twice the rate of heart disease as those with strong social connections)
- Inhibits harmful comparisons
- Diminishes or deters negative feelings such as anger, bitterness, and greed
- Thwarts hedonistic adaptation (the ability to adjust your set point to positive new circumstances so that we don’t appreciate the new circumstance and it has little affect on our overall health or happiness)
Your life is exactly that: your life. Don’t wait another day for the universe to hand you the perfect setting, job, opportunity, or partner to create an ideal situation for you to then be happy. Courageously go after what you want and adopt an attitude of gratitude TODAY, so that tomorrow you learn the delight of being grateful in the moment without needing any external reward to manifest the emotion.
If you’re not sure how to begin feeling grateful, here are a few tips:
Keep a gratitude journal and write down 3-5 things you are grateful for every day.
Spend some time in meditation and DECIDE to be happy, practicing the vibration and emotion it creates in your body, mind, and spirit.
Share your gratitude with others: Not surprisingly, you are not the only one who is seeking to receive more self-love, confidence, and feelings of fulfillment in life. Express your gratitude to another individual and watch their face light up; feel their heart expand, and in return feel more grateful to the Universe for creating such a kind and thoughtful you.
Do you have any more tips to start being more grateful? Share below!