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How Gratitude Practice Makes You Happier

"It is not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” - David Steindl-Rast

All of us would love to live happier lives.

It is a common desire that binds us together - the search for more joyful living.

Often this search is what brings us to a spiritual path, committing to our daily spiritual practices and investing in a life of more peace, more joy, more love, more kindness, more connection to our highest self and to the Divine.

And when we feel better, the people around us feel better too.

In study after study in positive psychology research, it is shown that in our quest for more joy in our lives, the practice of gratitude is a powerhouse.

As you know, I view life with a glass-half-full perspective and I have long been a “gratitude person.”

Those of you who have the book, Every Day Spirit, know that gratitude is a recurring theme, and we have talked often about the practice of writing down 3 to 5 things each day that we are grateful for.

But until I started creating a Gratitude Journal for us to use daily (coming out soon), I wasn’t aware of the depth of research showing the measurable benefits of grateful living.

Here’s some good news about practicing gratitude.


Two studies in particular grabbed my attention.

In the first one conducted by the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, Ph.D., at UC Davis, with Mike McCullough at U of Miami, participants were given one of three journaling tasks.

Group 1 described five things they were grateful for over the past week. Group 2 recorded five things from the previous week that were inconvenient or displeased them, and Group 3 listed events from the previous week with no positive or negative instruction.

In ten weeks, Group 1, the gratitude group, reported feeling better about their lives and were 25% happier than Group 2.

They also reported fewer health complaints and had exercised more than the other groups.

Happier, healthier and working out more. All because of a simple, weekly journaling practice.

Imagine what a year of daily gratitude practice could do!

The second one is a later study by Emmons set up in a similar fashion, but the journaling was done daily instead of weekly.

The participants showed a measurable increase in happiness as in the first study.

But there was an additional surprise result.

The practice of gratitude had increased their feelings of good-will toward others. Even their spouses reported feeling greater happiness.


The list of benefits for gratitude journaling it pretty compelling. For the time it takes to count our blessings, there is an incredible return on our investment:

1 - Happiness. Study after study makes clear the link between practicing gratitude daily and the happiness, health and well-being people feel in their lives.

2 - Kindness toward partners and others. People who practiced gratitude offered more emotional support to those around them, uplifting other lives as well as their own.

3 - Better sleep. A number of studies link gratitude journaling before bed with increased hours of sleep, waking up feeling more refreshed, and more wakefulness during the day.

4 - Less depression. Several other studies have shown depression to be inversely correlated with gratitude.


Gratitude practice:

redirects our focus from what is going wrong to what is going right,

trains our hearts and minds to notice abundance instead of noticing what we lack,

awakens our souls as we recognize the Divine source of the countless gifts in our lives,

offers a new perspective - a way of seeing the world with an awareness of the magnificent blessings that surround us every day.

And it’s all right here, within our reach.

So today, let's notice what is good, loving and kind. Let's recognize the beauty, the blessings and the gifts.

Let’s find joy - by walking in gratitude.

What are you grateful for today?

The Every Day Spirit Gratitude Journal went to print this week! I’ll keep you posted on when it becomes available.

Watch David Steindl-Rast here in his gentle and compelling TED talk about grateful living.

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