Though Thanksgiving celebrations vary, and its historical origins remain rightly controversial, the core sentiment of this holiday — gratitude — is pretty much universally accepted. But most of us could do more to actively feel thankful for what we have year-round, especially since research shows gratitude is good for your health and well-being. A new infographic by Happify, a startup building technologies for increasing happiness, explores the various effects being thankful has on our confidence and self-esteem, and the benefits are truly impressive.
Practicing gratitude can decrease stress levels and increase satisfaction with your life. You don't have to have a perfect life to feel thankful for it. In fact, it seems like gratitude comes first in many cases, and it causes people to therefore become even happier than they were before. Gratitude isn't just the welcome result of living a good life, it is an input to them.
There's no reason to think that feeling gratitude is incompatible with working to fix problems in the world, either. Unhappy people full of despair don't tend to be effective advocates for themselves or others. Gratitude doesn't imply complacency or not wanting more for yourself and your family. It's just about recognizing and valuing what you have, and refusing to take it for granted.
New York Times contributor Arthur Brooks put the point nicely in a recent piece, "Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier.":
Think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks. This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss.
As Brooks explains, although we may have different gratitude baselines, we can also still choose to become more grateful, and the benefits are many. If you don't spontaneously feel thankful all the time, that doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, but it also doesn't mean that feeling gratitude more often wouldn't help. (Women have a leg up here, because more of us already express gratitude than men.)
Check out this infographic from Happify for more details about who's grateful, how you can become that way, and how gratitude will change you.