If you watch the news or spend any amount of time on social media, society seems like it's in a tailspin. Whether we're talking about Ukraine, the economy, elections, recessions, or interest rates—it's all a mess.
This is why I recommend two things:
- Don't spend too much time consuming the news. Yes, stay informed, but don't get sucked into the vortex of negativity that comes from the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality of content producers.
- Focus on what you can control. Your business, health, relationships, finances, education, skills, and maybe most important: gratitude.
And since Thanksgiving is this week in the United States, let's spend more time on the subject of gratitude.
Gratitude is a virtuous circle. Most of us know this from personal experience. And for the last several years, researchers have come to the conclusion that gratitude is a key component of helping people live happier and longer.
I know this is true in my life. It seems the more I give thanks, the more reasons I have for gratitude. Even when I suffered an unexpected health issue a few months back, I had much to be grateful for (here’s a post that talks specifics, if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
The opposite mindset is a much harder row to hoe.
We all know materialistic people who expect possessions to make them happy. It usually doesn’t work out that way. It’s an empty feeling to love something that can’t love you back. These people are usually unhappy no matter how much stuff they get their hands on.
The reason, according to researchers at my alma mater, Baylor University, is that by focusing on what we do not have, we are less likely to give thanks for what we do. And gratitude leads directly to feelings of satisfaction and well-being.
How? According to research reported by Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, there are several scientifically supported ways gratitude helps us flourish. Here are four I found especially compelling:
1. Gratitude reduces our stress.
Thankfulness redirects our attention from our difficulties to the benefits we enjoy. It’s like creating a stockpile of good thoughts for tough times. It also helps us reframe our losses and stay connected emotionally to friends and family.
2. Gratitude inoculates us from negative emotions.
When we focus on what we don’t have or how our decisions could have turned out better, we leave room for resentment, envy, and regret to build. Gratitude can keep these feelings at bay.
3. Gratitude sustains our relationships.
Let me just ask, do you like hanging out with people who gripe and complain? Me neither. It’s gratitude that draws people together, builds trust, and strengthens ties. That’s true in the workplace, among friends, in families, and between husbands and wives.
4. Gratitude improves our health.
Grateful people visit their doctors less often and live longer than others. The research shows that thankfulness helps us sleep better, controls our blood pressure, and generally reduces physical complaints.
Given these four ways gratitude can benefit us, I’d say we have some very good reasons to return thanks more than once a year. Cultivating gratitude makes each day worth living and might even give us more days.
However you decide to express your thanks—focusing on your blessings, practicing mindfulness, praying, finding something that triggers gratitude, writing notes to colleagues and friends—you and the people around you will be positively impacted when you allow a sense of gratitude to run in the background.
So this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks—and make gratitude our default operating system year-round.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.