Thanksgiving is tomorrow and many of us have begun desperately digging around in our dusty box of gratitude, so we don’t come up short around the Thanksgiving table. We can’t help but notice that—as we uncover one treasure after another—our lives are suddenly brimming with joy and blessings, our burdens feel lighter, and our hearts more full.
Now, what might your life be like if you felt this sense of gratitude—not just on Thanksgiving—but most of the time?
In a word: happier.
Turns out, thankfulness, or gratitude, is a quality that is inextricably linked to happiness. In fact, positive psychology research finds that gratitude is “strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness,” in all areas of one's life. But what is most interesting, is that research also tells us that, “Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.” That is, we can work at being more thankful.
Believe it or not, there are people who have become experts in the area of gratitude—we know them as “happy people.” If there is one consistent quality found among happy people, it’s their undaunted determination to be so. Happy people will themselves to love when the warm and fuzzies don’t come naturally and choose to give thanks even when circumstances are difficult.
This fortitude of spirit that happy people possess spills over into every area of their lives, most importantly in their relationships. For happy people, love is a choice and they choose it every day—through the good times and the bad. Happy people apply this same force of the will when it comes to gratitude and science shows that it makes their relationships strong. One study found that people who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
These emotional Jedis we call “happy people” show us that you don’t have to wait until the spirit moves you to give thanks. Gratitude is a virtue that must be practiced, and when we do it becomes a natural part of how we function on a regular basis.
We all want to be happy, but the real question is, are we willing to do what it takes?