It sounds so simple. But sometimes the most basic acts are what can lead to the most substantial positive shifts in our lives. Researchers, namely UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, PhD and colleagues, have been studying effects of gratitude and uncovered powerful insights.

In one study, when compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral events, those who recorded what they were grateful for in weekly journals:

  • Exercised more
  • Reported fewer physical symptoms
  • Felt better about their lives as a whole; and,
  • Were more optimistic about the week ahead

Another study found that children who practiced gratitude had more positive attitudes toward their families and school than those who did not.

In yet another questionnaire, grateful people reported higher levels of life satisfaction, optimism, and vitality, as well as lower levels of depression and stress. Those thankful were also found to:

  • Place less importance on material possessions
  • Be less likely to judge themselves in comparison with others
  • Be less envious of others; and,
  • Share more

Additionally, grateful people were rated as more generous and helpful by social-network peers. Some experts believe that gratitude works like a muscle that strengthens over time when exercised, says David Wall Rice, PhD, an associate proessor of psychology at Atlanta-based Morehouse College.

To be clear, it’s not that grateful people deny or ignore negative parts of life. But rather, they tend to put a more positive spin on hardship, looking at it as something they harnessed the strength to overcome. It’s this acceptance of hard times that then makes them able to relate to and support others in times of need.

Practice Gratitude Daily:

  • Write down three things you are thankful for.
  • Use your phone to photograph things that inspire gratitude.
  • Audio record yourself saying words of appreciation.
  • Keep a gratitude sketch book.
  • At dinner, ask everyone at the table to say one thing they are grateful for.
  • Take a gratitude walk.

Introduce The Gratitude Habit To Children:

  • Fill in this blank often, “It really made my day when you _________.”
  • Encourage sharing.
  • With your kids in tow, say thank you for specific actions: To loved ones, the mail deliverer, waiter, bus driver, store clerk, bank teller, or friend who made you laugh.
  • Make and send hand-written thank you cards.
  • Make a gratitude board or flip-book using cut-out magazine clippings.

When we make it a priority, gratitude can be the attitude of warmth and light that guides us the whole year.

What are ways You’ve shown gratitude?