Thank you—two words that have gotten a lot of ink recently.
Studies show being grateful is associated a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure. People who are thankful feel more joy, have more energy, and are less lonely. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found writing a letter of gratitude to someone impactful in their past made participants feel happier immediately—and the feelings lasted up to a month after. Couples who expressed gratitude to one another felt more positive about the other person—and also felt more comfortable expressing concerns. A University of California Davis study asked participants to write a gratitude journal. Folks who were more grateful than aggravated had fewer medical problems. They also spent more time working out!
Being thankful leads you to be more fully in the present. It acknowledges the glass being half full, and psychologically focuses on positive thinking and an optimistic mindset.
You probably do give thanks—muttering the often obligatory “thx,” or the overzealous “thank you so much”—but cultivating an attitude of gratitude is different.
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Often, we hear of near death situations or spiritual crises leading to gratitude. But without, say, making the trip to India that led to Alanis Morissette’s hit “Thank You,” or throwing yourself on a hand grenade like recent Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. William ‘Kyle’ Carpenter, what can you do? As Cpl. Carpenter recently advised, “Be thankful for what you have, appreciate the smaller and simpler things, be kind and help others, let the ones you love know you love them and when things get tough, trust there’s a bigger plan and that you will be stronger for it.”
Need a place to start? Put that advice to work by taking these three actions.
1. Pick up the phone. Thank one person for something they said years ago—something that was pivotal in your life (maybe it was the nicest compliment you received or the best piece of advice someone gave you). I bet you that person doesn’t know the importance of what he or she said to you. In your conversation, make sure the person knows how taking a few moments to talk to you made a ripple effect in your life.
2. Thank someone for doing his or her job well. Pick someone who usually doesn’t get thanked and genuinely appreciate the fact they take care of something that affects you, even tangentially.
3. Give thanks for something that didn’t happen. Maybe it was that job you really wanted or that trip that fell through last minute. Acknowledge that your lack of control helped you in the bigger picture. This ironic “thank you” helps you be less irritable when things don’t go your way, and more easy going in general.