How gratitude makes us happier

Stress at work, stress with your partner, and then the train is late – in everyday life there are many things that could annoy you and that can downright ruin your day.

If you search long enough, you will find it. Because there is always something that is not good enough. The relationship, one’s own body image, the living conditions – one is not really satisfied with anything, everything seems in need of improvement. If you are permanently dissatisfied and always only pick out the negative things, a pattern develops in your head. You subconsciously program yourself to see the glass half empty – you won’t be happy that way.

The world through negative glasses

We now know that if you pay attention to negative thoughts, you see the world around you through negative glasses. Then you notice many things that don’t seem to work in your own life, that you don’t have yourself, but that you really want. Most of the time it’s about the relationship, your own body or your job – and anyone who has fallen for the trend towards self-optimization on social media platforms will find it difficult to get out of it.

Negative thoughts create negative feelings. These trigger chemical reactions in the body – the negative feelings can be felt. Emotions such as fear or anger can be perceived, for example, as a heavy block in the stomach area or an oppressive tightness in the chest area. Over time, negative thinking can make you sick.

Focus on happiness and contentment

For a long time, psychology dealt exclusively with negative feelings. Therapists and scientists wanted to find out how to get rid of fear, anger or depression and were looking for methods to help people in difficult situations.

At the end of the 1990s there was a trend reversal in this area – the focus in psychotherapy was redirected to good and positive feelings. What is happiness and how can you measure it? What makes people happy and how can well-being be increased? The research field of positive psychology was born. In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy was also developed to counteract negative feelings.

Gratitude as the key to happiness?

To date, however, the researchers have not found the one key to happiness. It probably doesn’t exist either. Because happiness and contentment is always individual. However, researchers have been able to identify a remedy for negative thought spirals and dissatisfaction: gratitude. But what exactly is that? For one, it is a positive emotion and an attitude one can adopt towards the world and one’s environment.

From an evolutionary point of view, gratitude even ensured human survival. If a person was hungry and another person showed him where there was something to eat, he was grateful. He wanted to give him something good in return and return a favor. This is how people started to behave socially. These early forms of gratitude brought people together and made them cooperative.

Today it is more about mental survival

What does gratitude mean today? Scientists have been asking this question for many years. And there are now numerous studies that show that grateful people tend to be more happy. Gratitude has a positive effect on body and soul. It is mentally empowering and can reduce the risk of becoming addicted or developing depression. Gratitude wards off negative feelings like envy, narcissism or cynicism. Those who are grateful also automatically compare themselves less to other people. Even sleep is said to be better if you are grateful during the day.

How does gratitude work in everyday life?

That’s all well and good – but how exactly does that work? Where do you start? Well, when in doubt, always ask yourself. Those who are grateful for their life, for their interpersonal relationships, are more likely to deepen existing relationships and invite new people, i.e. new relationships, into their lives. You are then automatically more open and radiate it to the outside world. Gratitude and humility, for example, are often felt by people who have survived a serious illness. A cup of delicious coffee in the morning, a chat with your best friend, a walk in the countryside – suddenly the smallest things seem wonderful and special. In everyday life we often forget this – time to remember.

Dear Diary, I am grateful for…

But you can practice gratitude – one of the simplest and scientifically proven methods is to keep a gratitude journal. It costs next to nothing and is suitable for everyday use.

Here’s how it works: Take a few minutes a day. In a notebook, write down between three and ten things you are grateful for. It recommends starting with small things, maybe the delicious breakfast or the friendly cashier at the supermarket. It might feel weird at first, but over time it becomes routine – it’s also a wonderful morning routine, by the way.

Those who start the day gratefully are more positive, more balanced and happier in the long term – researchers were even able to prove this in brain scans of study participants. However, gratitude alone is not a panacea for depression – it is only one building block and cannot replace going to a therapist. However, it is a good tool against rumination, dissatisfaction and negative thought spirals.

Author: Iunia Mihu

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