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Want some happy? Give it five

by SHOLEH PATRICK
| November 24, 2022 1:00 AM

Not only is this column redundant, it’s shamelessly and, more to the point, gratefully derived from the work of another (plus a tad more effort to confirm it). Steve Scott’s blog, 31 Benefits of Gratitude, packs a wallop of research and scientific authorities to prove a simple fact:

Gratitude leads to happiness.

So once the frenzy of preparations, gorging, and football are done, perhaps a moment to consider why the “thanks” in Thanksgiving is the bigger point.

The sum of 40 studies found these benefits of focusing on feeling grateful, for just five minutes a day. Yes; just five minutes.

Emotional — Feeling more relaxed and resilient; less envious of others; remembering a happier past

Social — More friends; healthier relationships; greater propensity toward kindness

Personality — Less self-focused; less materialistic; more spiritual and optimistic; better self-esteem

Health — Better health and sleep; more energy; live longer

Career — Improved management and decision-making; more productive and more goals achieved

With the possible exception of the emotional benefit, the effects of gratitude aren’t instant. Like losing weight or getting healthy it happens with practice and in increments. But unlike dieting and exercise, it feels good while you’re doing it.

Got to love that instant gratification.

The people in these studies practiced a few minutes of focused gratitude (such as writing what you’re grateful for in a journal, or simply thinking about it intentionally) every day for a couple of months to see a more consistent pattern of benefits. Yet I’ll bet every wasted minute of negative feelings I’ve had that regardless of results, the simple exercise improved their days. Made them feel happier, at least for a while.

Isn’t the best in life a collection of such moments?

As an investment, the return on practicing gratitude is measurably high. Take the social aspect. In two studies published in the August 2008 Journal of Research in Personality, being 10% more grateful led to 17% more social capital and friends. That’s almost double.

Aches and pains keeping you up? Try it.

Simply keeping a gratitude journal led to another study’s (“Counting Blessings versus Burdens”) participants reporting 16% fewer physical symptoms, 10% less pain, and 25% better sleep quality. In this era of pervasive symptoms of depression, just doing the gratitude journal lowered those symptoms by 30% as long as long as the journal was kept (2005 study “Positive Psychology Progress”). Multiple studies have linked lower blood pressure and more energy with gratitude exercises.

The list goes on, but the lesson — most apropos of this day of thanks — is a no-brainer. Five minutes can always be found once a day, even if it means going to bed five minutes later. There’s always something to be grateful for which others don’t have. A roof. A meal. Someone who loves you. A warm coat. Friendship. The education that allowed you to read a newspaper.

The breath you just took.

Five minutes to intentionally feel grateful for something, once a day. Whatever the resulting data, it can only lead to happiness — at least five more minutes of it.

For which we could be grateful…

• • •

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who’s grateful for peaceful moments with a soft, senior kitty who’s currently pawing at her keyboard. Happy Thanksgiving. Email Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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