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Studies Find Expressing Gratitude Improves a Person’s Overall Happiness

— October 11, 2022

A study shows that kindness can improve mental health.

The season is changing and colored leaves swirl around us pushed by a crisp, cool autumn air. The breeze carries with it the distinct smell of pumpkin spice lattes. Fall is a time of harvest and thanksgiving. And according to a new poll conducted by OnePoll for Motivosity, giving thanks and expressing gratitude may, indeed, be the secret to happiness.

A survey polled 2,000 Americans and showed that 65% of respondents who said they were “very happy” day-to-day also reported that they “always” give thanks. This study has huge implications for how we view ourselves, our spouses, and the workplace.

The researchers suggest that the correlation between happiness and giving thanks regularly is due to practicing techniques that promote a positive outlook on life. Logan Mallory, VP of Marketing at Motivosity, said that expressing gratitude “rewires their brain to look for positives instead of the negatives around them.”

Studies Find Expressing Gratitude Improves a Person's Overall Happiness
Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Motivosity’s study is not the first to establish the link between happiness and gratitude. Last year, Dr. Robert A. Emmons at UC Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough at the University of Miami conducted a similar study where each participant was placed into one of three groups that were instructed to write a few sentences each week about either things they were grateful for, things that had irritated them, or events that had merely occurred. Unsurprisingly, the group that focused on positive aspects of their lives were more optimistic and exercised with more regularity than either of the other two groups.

Expressing gratitude can be difficult especially when facing hard times. With 8.5% year over year inflation, many Americans are experiencing a financial pinch that can leave them feeling bereft. However, researchers have also found that those who display gratitude towards their personal lives have the ability to spread happiness to others.

“Public acknowledgement has a massive impact on making people genuinely feel that their day-to-day efforts make a difference,” Logan claims.

The study also found that the most way to spread gratitude was between spouses, which could explain why married couples are happier on average. The second most common source was from family members, followed by friends. Towards the bottom, bosses and co-workers were some of the least likely to show public acknowledgement of gratitude. This is likely because it’s often seen as irrelevant to do so in a professional environment. However, breaking this norm could lead to increased job satisfaction. As a result of low levels of gratitude within the workplace, only 18% reported feeling appreciated at work.

Lack of employee appreciation may lead workers to practice “quiet quitting”: a practice that has been popularized on TikTok and other social media. This is the idea of staying at a job but not giving one’s best. According to Michael Dandorph, CEO and President of Tufts Medicine, the best way to handle quiet quitting is to “emphasize the importance of well-being, and individual wellness in making people feel valued and supported…We need to humanize work.”

The easiest way to increase your own happiness as well as that of those around you is to practice giving thanks. September 21 has been declared the National Day of Gratitude and giving thanks happens again on Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it. Many people choose to publicly declare one things they’re grateful for each day leading up to the holiday, beginning on the first day of November.


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