How to be happier in life? Positive psychology suggests that in addition to addressing problems and challenges, it is also important to focus on building positive qualities and cultivating well-being. In search of recipes for happiness, positive psychology researchers investigated human virtues and strengths and various practices that enable people thriving (Seligman et al. 2005).
It was found that gratitude is one of the key components of happiness and that cultivating gratitude can lead to increased well-being and life satisfaction (Yoshimura & Berzins 2017). Benefits of gratitude practices are visible in every area of our lives. When we focus on the things we are grateful for, we are more likely to feel positive emotions, such as happiness and contentment, which can allow to counteract the negative effects of stress. Additionally, gratitude can help us to shift our perspective and focus on the positive aspects of our lives, rather than on the negative.
Some studies suggest that practicing gratitude can have also benefits for physical health (Emmons, McCullough, and Tsang 2003). Research has found that individuals who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and fewer physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach aches.
Gratitude has been linked to increased feelings of connection and social support (Adair et al. 2018). When we express gratitude towards others, it can strengthen our relationships and make us feel more connected to those around us. Additionally, focusing on the things we are grateful for can help us to feel more positive and hopeful, which can in turn make us more open and receptive to social connections.
Ways of practicing gratitude
Gratitude practice is the act of focusing on and expressing gratitude for the good things in your life. This can be done in various ways, such as keeping a gratitude journal, doing gratitude or loving kindness meditation, sharing your gratitude with others, or simply taking a few moments each day to silently reflect on the things you are grateful for. This can also involve paying attention to the small, positive things that happen throughout the day, such as a beautiful sunset or a kind gesture from a stranger, and taking a moment to appreciate them.
Some level of mindfulness is required to remember to notice the moments you are grateful for. Mindfulness exercises, such as gratitude meditation can help develop mindfulness and gratitude at the same time. Gratitude meditation is a practice of focusing on and expressing gratitude for the good things in your life by silently repeating phrases of gratitude to yourself, visualizing the things you are grateful for, or simply allowing feelings of gratitude to arise naturally as you sit in stillness.
Gratitude practices are included in the course The art of being present, organized in LAB, which is available for degree programme students at LAB, at Campus Online and at the Open University. The course was developed as a part of Erasmus+ funded SLEM-project. More information here: SLEM project – Entrepreneurial Self-Leadership Education through Virtual Training (LAB 2023; Link 1).
Olga Bogdanova works as an RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and acts as a project manager at SLEM project.
Adair, K.C., Fredrickson, B.L., Castro-Schilo, L., Kim, S. and Sidberry, S. 2018. Present with you: Does cultivated mindfulness predict greater social connection through gains in decentering and reductions in negative emotions? Mindfulness, 9(3), 737-749. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0811-1.
Alexas_Fotos. 2019. The little things of life, enjoy. Pixabay. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://pixabay.com/photos/the-little-things-of-life-enjoy-4162499/
Emmons, R. A., McCullough, M. E., & Tsang, J.-A. 2003. The assessment of gratitude. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures. American Psychological Association, 327–341. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://doi.org/10.1037/10612-021.
LAB. 2023. SLEM -Entrepreneurial Self-Leadership Education through Virtual Training. Project. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://www.lab.fi/en/project/slem-entrepreneurial-self-leadership-education-through-virtual-training
Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. 2005. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), 410. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410.
Yoshimura, S. M., & Berzins, K. 2017. Grateful experiences and expressions: The role of gratitude expressions in the link between gratitude experiences and well-being. Review of Communication, 17(2), 106-118. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://doi.org/10.1080/15358593.2017.1293836.
Link 1. SLEM project. 2022. Cited 13 Jan 2023. Available at https://www.slemacademy.eu/