Being grateful is one thing…but outwardly expressing your gratitude has benefits of its own. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis and the foremost scientific expert on gratitude, has performed numerous studies about the positive effects of showing gratitude. His findings show that consistently expressing one’s gratitude is physically, psychologically, and socially healthy.
So, how are we supposed to put this feeling of gratitude into practice for best results? Here are some ideas for how to show yourself, others, and the universe how grateful you truly are.
Say that you’re grateful for internal things, things that you can’t exactly thank others for. How can you best express your gratitude if there’s no one to actually thank? Try taking the time to write down your feelings on paper. In times of strife during which you might be feeling a little less thankful, written documentation can be an incredibly positive resource to reflect on.
Note even the smallest, seemingly insignificant moments, like a smile from a stranger, a patient driver on the freeway, or a clean bill of health after a routine doctor’s appointment. Does the sound of regular journaling sound a bit daunting? Emmons suggests an alternate exercise that you can practice through the conscious acknowledgment of what inspires your gratitude: “Practice counting your blessings on a regular basis, maybe first thing in the morning, maybe in the evening. What are you grateful for today?”
Celebrate your appreciation for your good fortune by giving back. No matter your circumstances, there are always others who, at any given moment, are much less fortunate than you. Volunteer your time, money, or services to benefit a cause you believe in when your cup of gratitude runneth over.
Charitable acts don’t just benefit the person or cause you’re helping; contributing to anything larger than yourself is a surefire way to increase your happiness, self-esteem, and feelings of self-worth. The Greater Good Science Center of The University of California, Berkeley asserts that giving makes us happy, is good for our health, promotes cooperation and social connection, and evokes even more gratitude! Giving is even considered to outreach the single, isolated instance in which it first appeared; the act of giving can be contagious, causing a ripple effect throughout a community and creating the momentum for a sweeping”pay-it-forward” mentality.
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Try taking time from your day to express your appreciation for those who have contributed to your feeling of gratitude. Send a handwritten thank you note to a friend who had you over for dinner. Bring a couple of coworkers coffee the day after they helped you prepare for a presentation. Or, just make it a point to look the official custodian in the eye and thank him or her when they empty your trash can at the end of the day.