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It’s science: practicing gratitude makes us happier


Click here to read the full article on Gratitude on Motherly's website.

With Thanksgiving nearly here, a lot of us are mulling over all the things we have to be thankful for. Amazing children, supportive partners and satisfying careers are worth mentioning when everyone is giving thanks around the table, but according to a growing body of research, we should keep giving thanks long after the Thanksgiving leftovers have finally left the fridge.

Here’s why:

It makes us happier

Practicing gratitude all year long is a scientifically proven way to boost our happiness, health and relationships. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who list their blessings are happier than those who take an inventory of life’s hassles, and are more likely to report having offered emotional support to someone else experiencing a personal problem.

It makes us more social

Not only did the people in that study get a happiness boost from listing their blessings, but they were also more likely to report offering emotional support or help to someone else experiencing a personal problem. According to the researchers, this indicates that practicing gratitude boosts one’s prosocial behavior.

Another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found expressing gratitude through things like thank you notes boosts a person’s prosocial behavior and makes them feel more valued socially.

It helps us sleep better

If there’s one thing parents need, it’s more sleep—and practicing gratitude can help with that. The research indicates expressing gratitude may have effects on how we sleep. One study noted that gratitude leads to better subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, while another found it is “uniquely related to total sleep quality, subjective sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep duration, and daytime dysfunction.” Basically, what we think about before we go to sleep impacts how well we sleep.

It helps us in relationships

Practicing gratitude can help your marriage. A study published in the journal Emotion found people who express gratitude report higher comfort voicing concerns to their partner and had a more positive perception of partner than control participants did.

It makes us healthier

There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on the link between gratitude and physical health, but the current research suggests that people who practice gratitude are in better physical health. This is probably because being grateful helps their mental health, which in turn makes them more likely to be motivated to exercise and seek help when health concerns come up.

It’s pretty clear that we should be giving thanks way beyond Thanksgiving. There’s really no downside. So maybe the best thing to give thanks for this year is your ability to adopt an attitude of gratitude as we head into the next.