How Giving Thanks Can Change Your Life
By Erinn Bucklan
The Power of Two Simple Words
In our goal-oriented world, it can be hard to stop the constant striving and start savoring the riches you already have (monetary and otherwise). Yet feeling thankful — instead of obsessing about what more you want — can bring about many positive changes.
So start to contemplate and celebrate what you have. It can improve your health, wealth, and even your sex life. Read on for all the ways gratitude can make your life better.
Skip the Shrink
Count your blessings every day and watch: You’ll start feeling happier and more optimistic, say British experts in Clinical Psychology Review who reviewed just about all the research on gratitude and the variety of forms it can take.
Whether it manifests as an appreciation of others, feeling grateful for what you already have, living in the moment, or drumming up frequent feelings of awe or the attitude that “life is short,” keeping a positive spin on things gives us a “high.”
In fact, scientists from the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University appear to have uncovered the hormone that makes us feel euphoric when we’re feeling #blessed: oxytocin, a powerful body chemical that’s also activated during sex and breastfeeding.
What’s more, these warm feelings can last up to two hours, say the researchers (all without the hangover of other mood-altering substances).
How’s this for toe-curling foreplay? Express appreciation for your partner and you’ll have more sex, feel more in love, and be less likely to split, according to research published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
You know that initial attraction where all you want to do is rip off each other’s clothes? Well, after that libido starts to fade, couples often start to take each other for granted.
And this new mindset totally kills the mood, researchers found. But for couples who stay “highly appreciative” (that is, those who listen to each other, share physical contact often, and respond positively to each other’s needs), the sex stays hot.
Visit the Doctor Less
Give yourself just 10 weeks of consciously giving more thanks for what you already have and you won’t just feel more optimistic — you’ll also exercise more and visit the physician less.
So found University of Miami researchers who studied the effect of gratitude on the well-being of their subjects. Participants who counted the ways they were grateful, compared to those who focused on aggravations and frustrations, turned their health around in just a matter of weeks.
Or, at least, you’ll save money on spontaneous splurges. Those who are grateful for what they have are less materialistic than people who are unsatisfied with their lives (the latter tend to spend more money on objects to fill that void), found Baylor University scientists.
“High materialists” shopped more to boost their life satisfaction (though the purchases never really changed their mindset). Meanwhile, people who regularly expressed thankfulness for what they already had actually felt happier and got to save their money. Win-win.
Motivate Others to Work Harder
Want to motivate those around you? Express more gratitude and you’ll inspire others to be more productive and generous on the job, found University of Pennsylvania and UNC-Chapel Hill researchers.
When you are perceived as being more humble and giving to others, people end up feeling more valued and work harder on your behalf, according to research that measured performance based on feelings of appreciation.
Take it from the authors: “In our first two experiments, a mere expression of thanks more than doubled the likelihood that helpers would provide assistance again (from 25 percent to 55 percent and from 32 percent to 66 percent).
In our third experiment, gratitude produced more than 50 percent increases in the number of calls that the average fundraiser made in a single week. In our fourth experiment, a single gratitude expression yielded an increase of 15 percent in the average amount of time spent helping.”
Be More Popular
Those who are gracious have an easier time making new friends than those who aren’t as polite. Just by saying “thank you” to someone new who helped you, you’re more likely to develop a friendship with that person, according to a study published in the journal Emotion. And the appreciation doesn’t have to be over-the-top, either. The secret?
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