A friend posted somebody's link to a short movie about gratitude and happiness, and I instantly got the "connection" because it parallels many of the things that have been going on in my life right now.
It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health. A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.
For older children and adults, one simple way to cultivate gratitude is to literally count your blessings. Keep a journal and regularly record whatever you are grateful for that day. Be specific. Listing “my friends, my school, my dog” day after day means that “gratitude fatigue” has set in. Writing “my dog licked my face when I was sad” keeps it fresher. The real benefit comes in changing how you experience the world. Look for things to be grateful for, and you’ll start seeing them.
Studies show that using negative, derogatory words — even as you talk to yourself — can darken your mood, as well. Fill your head with positive thoughts, express thanks and encouragement aloud and look for something to be grateful for, not criticize, in those around you, especially loved ones.
Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans cited gratitude as an indispensable human virtue, but social scientists are just beginning to study how it develops and the effects it can have.
A Buddhist exercise, called Naikan self-reflection, asks people to ponder daily: "What have I received from…? What have I given to…? and What trouble have I caused…?" Acknowledging those who touched your life—from the barista who made your coffee to the engineer who drove your train—and reflecting on how you reciprocated reinforces humbleness and interdependence.
It's also important to express gratitude directly to others. For example, "It makes me so happy when you call me and we get to talk" is an example of a direct expression of gratitude. It makes not one, but two people happy!
Here are some additional resources to read on the subject of gratitude and happiness:
http://goo.gl/f7U7D Time Magazine
http://goo.gl/f9AAov Psychology Today
http://goo.gl/f9aT2 How Stuff Works
http://goo.gl/JBYuQ Georgia Psychological Association
http://goo.gl/4y2QhL Wall Street Journal