Are you a glass-half-full sort of person, or more of a glass-half-empty? Research indicates that each one of us has a different genetically determined happiness set point, our general level of well-being and happiness. Some of us are naturally cheerful and others have dispositions that tend towards grumpiness. The ups and downs of life undoubtedly effect our well-being and mood, but numerous studies indicate that whether we’ve just won the lottery or found out about the death of a family member, we will nevertheless return to our happiness set point. In other words, no matter what comes our way, our happiness bounces back to the same spot.
The research, however, doesn’t stop there. Psychologists have recently identified a group of intentional activities that can move our genetically determined set point up or down and the practice of gratitude is one of them! In fact, gratitude has become one of the most scientifically studied virtues as of late and research shows that practicing gratitude can transform our mood as our brains get flooded with oxytocin, the feel-good-love-hormone.
Additionally, when we intentionally practice gratitude, we reap a host of benefits cognitively, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. For example, we sleep sounder, have stronger immune systems, improved energy, recover more quickly from illnesses, exercise more, are more attentive, creative, and intrinsically motivated, are more helpful, trustworthy, compassionate, and forgiving, have higher levels of positive emotions (joy, vitality, love, & optimism), lower levels of negative emotions (depression, envy, & resentment), are more resilient in stressful times, and are more hopeful, peaceful, and have a deepened awareness of grace. WOW! (And that’s just some of the benefits!)
So – if you’d like to spark more joy in your life, commit to the daily practice of gratitude. Slow down and notice the good, savor it, and share it. And if you’re really up for the gratitude challenge, keep a gratitude journal over the next three weeks, jotting down three specific things each day that you are grateful for, and watch what happens!