“It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy”
But does this quote really reveal a path to happiness? Is simply ‘being thankful’ enough? Insights from research suggest that indeed, individuals who are thankful experience increased happiness and hope. And good news: There are exercises to become more thankful! But how effective are they?
A recent study examined the effectiveness of a short gratitude exercise in increasing gratitude, happiness, and hope in 153 college students. Hereby, students were divided into two groups and either instructed to practice a gratitude exercise or a neutral exercise. Additionally, all students filled in a survey before and after the exercise, measuring their levels of gratitude, hope, and happiness. And indeed, they found that students who practiced the short gratitude exercise felt more grateful, happy, and hopeful, whereas those who practiced the neutral exercise did not.
Now, you wonder what this exercise entails? It’s quite simple, you can do it too, all you need is a paper and pen. And this is what you need to do:
Write about a hope of yours that already became true. How did that feel? What did you learn? Next, describe what factors played a role in making this hope come true (e.g., motivation, relationships, spirituality). Then, describe steps you took to achieve this hope and what strengths you developed in this process. Finally, note what you feel grateful for today.
Want to give it a try? It might make you a little happier too!
References: Witvliet, C., Richie, F., Root Luna, L., & Van Tongeren, D. (2018). Gratitude predicts hope and happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(3), 271–282. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1424924