Does Giving Thanks Actually Make You Happier?
By Deanna deBara | Published November 23, 2021
Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is a holiday for giving thanks. But while expressing gratitude might be the go-to activity for the holiday, in actuality, it's much, much more than that.
Regularly giving thanks—also known as cultivating a gratitude practice—can have a seriously positive impact on your life, both at work and at home. But what, exactly, are the benefits of giving thanks—and how can practicing gratitude make you happier and your life better, both personally and professionally?
Giving thanks helps keep stress at bay.
Stress is a part of life. But too much stress can wreak havoc on your health, your happiness, and your overall well-being—which is why keeping stress in check is a must.
And one of the best ways to keep stress in check? Expressing thanks.
According to data from UC Davis , people who regularly practice gratitude have 23 percent lower levels of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) than people who don't. So, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and stressed out (or example, when it's crunch time for a big project), working gratitude into your daily routine—whether that's jotting down three work-related things you feel grateful for every morning or making time to say "thanks" to colleagues before you sign off each day—could be precisely what you need to kick that stress to the curb.
Giving thanks makes you happier...
Everyone wants to be happier—including at work. And if you're going to increase your happiness at work (and in general!), regularly expressing thanks is a great way to do it.
There is a solid amount of research tying gratitude to increased happiness. For example, one study found that gratitude exercises both increased happiness and decreased rates of depression in study participants—and according to the data from UC Davis, over six months, two specific gratitude exercises (writing letters giving thanks and counting their blessings) reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by an impressive 41 percent.
Bottom line? Increased happiness is a significant benefit of giving thanks. So if you want to feel happier, try making gratitude a priority.
Less stress and more happiness will obviously make you feel better. But giving thanks can do more than make you feel better—it can actually make you healthier.
Cultivating a gratitude practice can have a significant impact on your health. For example, the data from UC Davis shows that, when people keep a gratitude journal, their dietary fat intake is reduced by up to 25 percent—and people who practice gratitude have lower blood pressure (16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure) than people that don't. Gratitude has also been shown to strengthen the immune system , lower inflammation , and improve sleep quality .
Bottom line? There are plenty of ways to become a healthier person—but if you're looking for a relatively easy practice that provides a myriad of health benefits, you should definitely give gratitude a try.
Gratitude builds stronger relationships with others...
There are few things in life more important than relationships. Suppose you have strong relationships with your colleagues. In that case, you'll be more successful at work—and if you have strong relationships with your family and friends, you'll have a happier, more fulfilling personal life.
And stronger relationships just so happen to be one of the many benefits of giving thanks.
According to research , practicing gratitude makes you more likely and willing to help others—and being willing to lend a helping hand to your family, friends, and colleagues will go a long way in strengthening your relationships.
...and with yourself
Building solid relationships with other people supports happiness, health, and success—but so does building a solid relationship with yourself.
To perform your best at work—and feel your best in general—you need a healthy amount of self-esteem. And, as it turns out, expressing gratitude can help you build your self-esteem. For example, one study found that athletes who expressed gratitude, both to their teammates and coaches, reported higher levels of self-esteem than their less grateful counterparts.
So, if you want to develop more self-esteem—and set yourself up for higher levels of success, both professional and personal, in the process? Give thanks.
How to reap the benefits of giving thanks
Clearly, giving thanks has some major benefits. Whether that's lowered stress, increased happiness, improved health, or better relationships, both with yourself and others. But to reap those benefits, you need to actually cultivate a gratitude practice—and make that practice a part of your day-to-day life.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Here are a few ways to work giving thanks into your regular routine:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Get a journal and carve out a few minutes each day to jot down three to five things you're grateful for. Not only will writing down what you're thankful for help you reap the benefits of giving thanks but going back and reading all the things you have to be grateful for can help boost your mood on tough days.
- Write thank-you notes. Telling other people why you're thankful for them is a great way to practice gratitude. Commit to writing thank-you notes to coworkers, friends, or family members once a week—and reap the benefits of giving thanks in the process.
- Set a gratitude goal. For most people, it's easier to follow through on a behavior when you have clearly defined goals. So, if you want to give thanks more—and enjoy all the benefits that go with it—try setting a gratitude goal. Outline the ways you want to express gratitude—as well as to who, when, and how often. Then, find ways to hold you accountable for hitting those gratitude goals (for example, adding gratitude practices to your calendar).
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Deanna deBara is an entrepreneur, speaker, and freelance writer who specializes in business and productivity topics. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog. See more of her work and learn more about her services at deannadebara.com.