Research Says: Be Grateful!

English writer G. K. Chesterton penned: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” 

If you are capable of thankful thoughts, you are elevating your thinking to its highest possible form. And “happiness doubled by wonder” sounds like a pretty great state to achieve. There are no downsides to being grateful. It helps you keep perspective of what you have already and stop wanting more. Gratitude fills the void of want.

Being grateful has emotional benefits as well. In a study from England, 156 undergraduate freshmen students were surveyed at the beginning and end of their first semester at college about gratitude, perceived social support, depression, and stress. The first semester at college can be stressful. Students are no longer surrounded by family, they are dealing with new social and academic situations, and have to navigate this adult world alone, likely for the first time. This study looked at whether students who had high levels of perceived social support, or low levels of depression or stress led to higher levels of gratitude or whether gratitude led to changes in the other factors. None of these factors led to gratitude, but gratitude led to the development of social support during this stressful transition to college and led to improved levels of stress and depression. A second study attempted to replicate the first one with 87 first year undergraduate students, but added the Big Five personality traits (extroversion, agreeableness, neurotics, openness to experience, and conscientiousness) to see if those impacted the results. Maybe the previous results had been because the students were extroverts. It turns out that gratitude is a larger factor than even personality. The results of study 2 showed that gratitude led to lower stress and depression levels and higher levels of tangible and appraisal social support above the effect of the Big Five personality traits.

Research also shows gratitude is good for marriage. Gratitude from marital interactions acts as a “booster shot for the relationship” increasing the relationship connection and satisfaction and communal strength. Gratitude can help with sleep quality and duration. Gratitude may even be the antidote for materialism and the unhappiness and negative psychological effects materialism causes.

In order to sleep better, be less stressed and depressed, increase my social support, strengthen my marriage, and protect myself from materialism, I am offering my gratitude for everything. We are so lucky to have so much. We were raised by wonderful families, we won the demographics lottery which allows us to work toward early retirement, and we have three healthy, wonderful children who motivate us every day to put family first.

In our house, we have a “grateful journal.” At dinner every evening, we each write down what we were thankful for that day. Sometimes the answers are silly. Sometimes poignant. The first day we started the journal (a year and a half ago), 3-year old Florin said she was “grateful for that I danced at my pretend party and broke my pretend video camera made out of snow and ice” (yes, I write down even the grammatical errors, because they are adorable) and Penny was grateful for the “beautiful sunshine! There were no clouds! And that we got to play outside for awhile. We played house.” No one is allowed to repeat the same thing someone has already said that day. This has been a great exercise for us and our children. Some days, when the kids are sick, they’re grateful for watching movies or not being more sick. But even on those days, when it’s hard to come up with something, it helps to change the perspective from negative to positive. And it helps us all look for things throughout the day we enjoy because we know we’ll be reporting back at dinner. And we have a record of nearly 500 blessings we each have we can look back through when we are struggling. We’ve literally filled a book with our blessings!

This Thanksgiving, for your health and happiness, remember to actually give thanks. And though it’s cheesy and insincere-sounding, I am grateful for you. This community is wonderful and I’m grateful to have you in my corner. Happy Thanksgiving!

gratitude

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24 Comments

  1. We’re glad you’re in our corner, too. What an excellent idea to start a gratitude journal! We hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • MaggieBanks

      You guys too, Claudia! I’m grateful for you as blogging friends! Enjoy eating like crazy (my favorite)!

  2. I love the idea of a grateful journal 🙂 hope you have a good holiday over there!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Nicola! I’m very excited to eat Turkey and Pie and hang with friends. You should probably just eat pie to celebrate vicariously with us! 🙂

  3. Oh I love the idea of a family gratitude journal! What an amazing thing to share with your kids – and a fantastic keepsake for them to remember what they loved when they were young!

    And to be totally cheesy right back, I’m super grateful for the amazing connections I’ve made since I started blogging, very much including you – I love reading your fantastic writing, and I feel like I have a tiny bit more insight into what it’s like to live in Alaska! (I’m seriously never going to get over that “moose in the yard” is a legitimate reason to be late. I *love* that story.)

    Happy Thanksgiving Maggie! I hope you have an amazing day with your family tomorrow, with lots and lots of pie 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      The moose in the yard thing happened just Monday! It’s a good thing my husband had the day off work, because there was no way he could get to his car. He took the kids to school in my car. Then we watched them eat all the neighbors pumpkins! I love moose!

      Happy Thanksgiving to you. We are grateful for you as well. Blogger friends are the best!

  4. This just made me smile so huge – 🙂 x100! Just a couple months back, my fiancé & I also started a gratitude journal. Every night before we go to bed we list 5 things we are grateful for – whether silly, deep, or bigger than us. It allows us to end the night really focused on each other, what we are grateful for in life in the present and what we look forward to in the future. It’s amazing all the benefits that come about when practicing gratitude! I absolutely love love love that you & your family do this around the dinner table. I hope we can carry that exercise out when we start to share our family dinners around the table!

    • MaggieBanks

      Yay Alyssa! (Have I mentioned we’re basically the same person?) It is so great, isn’t it? Happy Thanksgiving, friend!

  5. I love the idea of a gratitude journal! I keep a mommy journal to record little things that the kids do or so, or big milestones, but it must be wonderful to have a book devoted to being thankful. We just might have to steal this idea 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I do not do a mommy journal, though I think that would be a great idea. I sort of try to slip those thing into the grateful journal because I’m lazy. “I’m grateful Penny lost her first tooth today.” Things like that. So, good for you on the mommy journal. I keep meaning to write those things down but I’m terrible at it! 🙂

  6. You make a really good point about gratitude strengthening a marriage. It is so easy to get caught up in what the other person didn’t do, or is doing that bothers you. If we try to express gratitude (thanks and appreciation) for what your spouse does do, it can definitely only make things better!

    • MaggieBanks

      My husband always rolls his eyes when I say I’m grateful for him or soemthing he does. But he secretly love it, I’m sure!

  7. Love the grateful journal idea. No reason to only discuss once a year. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. A family gratitude journal is such a beautiful idea! 🙂 I would love to bring that tradition to my future family and kids. It must feel amazing to look back on all of your blessings throughout the years and also watch your kids’ growth through the entries 🙂

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope you and your family have a beautiful day. Thank you for all you do for the pf community. It wouldn’t be the same without your amazing comments and phenomenal storytelling.

    • MaggieBanks

      Looking back through is always very funny for all our children. And thank you for the flattery… hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well. 🙂

  9. J

    I agree with everyone, the grateful journal is a great idea! What a great way to teach your kids about gratitude. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! 🙂

  10. Wow, what a cool idea, Maggie! I’ve been doing a sentence-a-day journal for about two years now, and I already think that’s a good habit that will really pay off in the future as a memory aid, but it doesn’t particularly have a theme of gratitude or anything like that — it’s more like just documenting what I did that day and how I felt, etc. Having one specifically to document things you’re grateful for sounds like an awesome family tradition, and a great way to get your kids into the habit of thinking about gratitude. Thanks for sharing it, and I hope you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    • MaggieBanks

      I love the sentence-a-day journal idea. I’ve been wanting to do a picture-a-day journal for a long time… but haven’t ever made it happen. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  11. Love this. Me and my husband talk about how grateful we are for things every day. I think having a journal is a great idea!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Michelle! It’s tough to remember every single night to write it down. We have some gaps in the journal, but it’s been a great exercise for our family.

  12. I think that gratitude journal is the best idea ever! What a wonderful keepsake you have, and even better — what a great way to frame your own minds and your growing kids’ minds in terms of positivity and gratefulness, instead of focusing on any of the many alternatives. Such an awesome idea! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thank you. We definitely have lags in our gratitude journal, but the kids have a great time (and they’re the ones that remember!). Gratitude is wonderful and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. 🙂

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