As Canadian Thanksgiving Day approaches, we are reminded to be grateful for the blessings in our lives. While expressing gratitude has value in and of itself, there are additional benefits for the person doing the thanking. In the following sections, I will discuss these benefits and indicate how expressing gratitude regularly can bring these benefits throughout the year.
Expressing gratitude to improve your mood
In a landmark research study, one group of participants was asked to write down five things for which they were grateful once a week for 10 weeks while the second group was given a different written task to perform over the same period. The results showed that the group who focused on gratitude was significantly happier than the other group. This points to the habit of expressing gratitude leading to positive effects on your mood.
Gratitude journaling: A big bang for your buck
Other research has showed that the positive effects on mood were greater by doing the gratitude journaling just once per week compared with doing it several days per week. In other words, you get the most bang for your buck in terms of happiness by expressing gratitude regularly but in a time-efficient manner. Thus, compared to many other activities and skills which help to foster positive mood and happiness, expressing gratitude is one of the least time-consuming activities. As such, it is a habit which is easy to incorporate into your routine even if you have a very busy schedule.
Switching the focus off the negative and onto the positive
Expressing gratitude is so effective in improving happiness because the kinds of thoughts we focus on play a major role in determining our moods. Just as people who are unhappy or depressed tend to focus on negative thoughts, being able to focus on positive thoughts helps to foster positive mood and happiness.
Expressing gratitude regularly trains you to focus on positive thoughts in the form of people and things you are grateful for. Doing this exercise regularly helps to make this focus on positive thoughts a habit to the point that the benefits to your mood and happiness become ongoing and enduring. It is a habit I encourage my clients in depression counselling to cultivate in my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist.
The benefits of expressing gratitude publicly and privately
The focus of this article has been on the benefits of expressing gratitude privately in the form of more positive mood and greater happiness for the person expressing gratitude. At this special time of year, I would be remiss if I failed to also point out the value of expressing gratitude publicly by thanking people who have helped you in various ways. Making a habit of this form of expressing gratitude can be good for the mood and happiness of both the person doing the thanking and the person being thanked. It is a habit I try to cultivate in my nonprofessional activities and in my professional life.
May you have a Happy Thanksgiving,