Want to Be Happier? Try Gratitude (The Research Proves it).


Your big project — hell, your baby — is finally complete.

There were some long nights (okay, weeks). Multiple drafts. Countless revisions.

But you made it through.

You lean back in your chair, legs outstretched. You let your head fall back. Let your eyes gently close.

You’re overcome by that feeling of sweet relief. So proud of the work you’ve done. Of the idea you’ve brought to life. Of the vision you’ve turned into a reality.

There’s a lightness in your chest. A sweet smile that spreads across your face. A silly, blissful laugh that bubbles to the surface because you’re that happy. Tired, but happy.

You breathe a sigh of relief. An exhale so deep that you wonder if you’ve been holding your breath this entire time.

This. feels. good.

Scratch that. It feels better than good — it feels great. Because you feel accomplished. Like you’re capable of anything.

Now pause. How would your feelings change if you did all this work, but then receive no acknowledgement for it?

No one thanks you.

No one takes note of the blood, sweat and tears you poured into this project.

No one recognizes the myriad of personal sacrifices you made in order to show up fully and give it your all.

Yep. That moment of bliss you felt just a second ago? Gone in a flash.

Because at the end of the day, you want to feel seen. Heard. Valued.

You want to feel like you matter. That you’ve done something of significance. And positively contributed to the world and those around you.

It may seem like a lot to ask for, but it’s not.

Especially when you remember that we’re social beings. Community brings us happiness. And our desire to be recognized for our work and our contribution is exactly that.

The responsibility of ensuring others feel part of your community — in life, and at work — may seem overwhelming. Like something that requires a lot of effort. Which creates cause for concern. Because that big project you just finished? There’s another one in the pipeline. So time is of the essence.

Well, I have good news — it’s not.

The simplest way to acknowledge and recognize others is to show gratitude.

Two words. That’s it. “Thank” and “you”. Not only does it take two seconds to do, but the effects are long lasting. It’s the dream scenario: Minimal effort upfront, followed by a huge payoff.

Chances are your parents have been telling you to say thank you since before you could walk. You agree expressing appreciation or gratitude is a nice thing to do. But it’s not something you value above all else.

But did you know there’s a multitude of empirical evidence out there proving gratitude’s benefit? That implies this laissez-faire approach to giving thanks is a missed opportunity?

Let me tell you more.

Research on gratitude has soared in recent years due to the inception of positive psychology. Positive psychology is the newest branch of the psychology field, dedicated to the study of what makes people flourish. [1] And research shows that gratitude is unique because “it’s an emotion with an attribution. Typically, we are grateful to someone, for something”. [2] Thus gratitude is relational by nature. It brings us together.

And as a result, gratitude has been attributed to an increase in relationship satisfaction [3], decrease in depression and social isolation [4], an increase in one’s ability to cope with stressful situations [5] and more.

Pretty awesome stuff, isn’t it?

Who knew two small words could have such a resounding impact on both our emotional and mental health.

But here’s the thing: the research stands only when the gratitude you feel is genuine. Faking it doesn’t produce the same benefits. Which may leave you wondering how to cultivate it. Because it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day. Get lost in the busyness. Lose sight of the people around you. And the people supporting you — directly and indirectly.

It might seem like a daunting task. But it’s not. Because at the end of the day, gratitude is a MINDSET.

Remember — your thoughts create your reality. What you think determines what you see. So if you want to infuse more gratitude into your daily life, then all you need to do is start looking at things through a new lens.

Because the more you take in the world and people around you — really SEE them — the more overcome by gratitude you’ll be.

Take the lobby of your office, for example.

Every morning when you walk through the front door, do you just expect it to be clean? The floors to be polished, the pillows to be fluffed and the rugs to be vacuumed? Or do you actively think about the person responsible for its cleanliness? The person who works the night shift to make sure things are in perfect order?

Or what about the bathroom?

Have you stopped to think about the person who spends their day making sure the sinks are dry, the toilets are clean and the soap dispensers are filled?

It’s easy to thank someone for the obvious — a dinner out, a birthday present, or a favor. Because how they’ve helped you and your connection to them is clear as day.

But what about the examples I gave above? In both cases, there are people who indirectly make your life easier. I’d argue better too. Yet they often go unseen. And worse, they go unthanked. Because it’s harder to see or notice the impact they have on your life. Especially when we’re running around. Heads down, stuck in our phones.

So if you take anything from this article, let it be this: The opportunity for gratitude is everywhere.

All you need to do is adopt a grateful mindset. Open your eyes. Look at your life in a new way. Think about all the people who make your life possible. From the big things, to the little things. And everything in between.

I challenge you to start right now. Extend your gratitude far and wide. See what and who you notice. Because the evidence is there — doing so will make your life better. And make you happier, too.

Comment below or send me an email at sofia@sofiaadler.com 


[1] Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.

[2] McAdams, D. P., & Bauer, J. J. (2004). Gratitude in Modern Life (M. E. McCullough & R. A. Emmons, Eds.). In The Psychology of Gratitude(pp. 1-24). doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195150100.003.0005

[3] Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8, 425–429. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.3.425

[4] Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality,42(4), 854-871. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2007.11.003

[5] Evans, S. E., Steel, A. L., & DiLillo, D. (2013). Child maltreatment severity and adult trauma symptoms: Does perceived social support play a buffering role? Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 934–943. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.005

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