How Actually Expressing Your Gratitude Can Be Beneficial To Your Mental Health

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The following 7 minute video powerfully illustrates why when we take the time to actually show someone how much we appreciate them the effects can be truly transforming. I would encourage you to take 7 minutes out of your day to watch this video. I don’t think you will be disappointed and it may well make your day.

What the video shows using real live human scenarios is that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in your life is how much gratitude you genuinely show and express to the important people in your life. This has been scientifically proven in a study by 3 psychologists (Seligman, Steen and Peterson, 2005). You can pick up the study if you are more interested directly from the video. Here is a brief synopsis.

They had in total 411 of 577  invited participants complete one of the following 6 exercises:

1. One group of participants were asked to write about their early memories every night for one week. (This was the placebo controlled group).

2. This group of participants were given one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to them but had never been properly thanked. (This is called the Gratitude Visit and is the focus of the video).

3. This group were asked to write down three things that went well each day and their causes every night for one week. In addition they were asked to provide a causal explanation for each good thing. (Three Good Things In Life)

4. This group were asked to write about a time when they were at their best and then to reflect on the personal strengths displayed in the story. They were told to review their story once every day for a week and to reflect on the strengths they had identified. (You At Your Best).

5. This group were asked to take an online inventory of character strengths and receive individualized feedback about their top five (“signature”) strengths. They were then asked to use one of these top strengths in a new and different way every day for one week.

6.  This group were given an exercise that was a truncated version of the one just described without the instruction to use signature strengths in new ways. Participants were asked to take the survey, to note their five highest strengths, and to use them more often during the next week.

Of these 6 groups it was those who wrote the gratitude letter and delivered it to the person concerned who had the greatest overall increase in happiness. For those who took the time to actually write something down, but could not make the phone call, for whatever reason, saw their happiness increase by 2-4%. Compare that to those who actually picked up the phone and personally expressed their gratitude, the increase in happiness was between 4-19%! What is even more interesting is that the person who experienced the biggest jump in happiness was the least happy person at the beginning of the study.

I close with the following quote from the referenced paper:

“At least since the time of Aristotle, scholars, philosophers, and religious leaders have pondered the question, “How can we become lastingly happier?” Yet until recently, the only guiding question of clinical psychology and psychiatry has been, “How can we reduce suffering?” We believe that psychology and psychiatry have found some answers to the suffering question and that this is a fine beginning. But even if answered fully, the mission of psychology should not end there. Few people are wholly content just with being less depressed and less anxious and less angry. We suggest that the future mission of our profession include not only reducing suffering but also increasing the total amount of happiness on the planet.”

(For more on this subject also see the posts Why Gratitude Can Be So Powerful along with Why I Am Working On Becoming A Happier Person and Why is Joy More Important Than Happiness?)

Who do you need to go and express gratitude to? Who do you know who could be encouraged by sharing this video with them?

Do feel free to share your results and thoughts.

 

3 thoughts on “How Actually Expressing Your Gratitude Can Be Beneficial To Your Mental Health”

  1. Dear Dr. Sunil, this is incredibly helpful as this is not just an idea or a theory but display of reality. Thanks again for putting all these together. Abuan

    1. I am glad you found that helpful Abaun. I have seen you as a team do something similar at DBI when you have had staff leaving and gone round expressing your appreciation for the person. That too was an amazingly powerful experience.

  2. I have been given permission to add the following comment:

    Thanks Sunil, this has been my greatest discovery during the past two years. It has played a part in helping me to manage my tendency to depression Why did it take me so long?

    God Bless,

    Rod

    Dear Rod
    Great to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the video.
    Yes I too am learning I need to go out of my way to express gratitude. There is a saying, ‘when the student is ready, then the teacher appears’. Maybe we have so many opportunities around us to learn, but we need to be open to them.
    Trust you are well.

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    This information is for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to be personal medical advice. Please ask your physician about any health guidelines seen in this blog, as everyone is different in his or her medical needs.