You Can Be Twenty-Five Percent Happier

Giving Thanks Increases Happiness

Let’s be honest. Sometimes life is really hard. We feel broken, lonely, shamed, hopeless. It’s hard to find the positive in anything. And why should we even bother to try? Everything is just messed up. But what if we made a point to find SOMETHING to be happy for. What would happen to us?

Trust me, I’ve had my share of trials. Did you know I have a son who was in a car accident in his early twenties and now lives in a nursing home because he had a traumatic brain injury? It’s sometimes hard to “look on the bright side.” I get it.

But here’s something to consider, research has proven that intentionally giving thanks for things in your life, even in the tough times, increases your happiness by twenty-five percent! Now tell me, who doesn’t want to be twenty-five percent happier?

Research Proves You Can Be 25% Happier

In a study done by Emmons and McCullough, they asked some of the participants to maintain a journal recording things for which they were grateful and a separate group of participants to record things they found annoying. When the results came back they found that participants in the group monitoring things for which they were grateful had significantly higher levels of well-being than the others. It turns out that practicing gratitude increases happiness, optimism, and satisfaction with your life by approximately 25%.

It makes sense. Whatever you wire your brain to focus on is going to directly impact how you feel. Emmons says. "When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you get angrier; when you express gratitude, you become more grateful."

Practicing Gratitude

So how do you go about “practicing gratitude”? It could be as simple as making a point every day to stop and find at least one thing to be thankful for. And don’t convince yourself there isn’t even one thing to be thankful for because there always is. If you are choosing to not find even one thing, then you are essentially choosing unhappiness. That is your choice. But if you want to try to find happiness look around you.

Perhaps the thing you are thankful for is as simple as…

  • My favorite comfy sweats
  • That person who held the door for me when I was shopping
  • The warm shining sun
  • Singing with the radio
  • TheHopeLine

Here were some things I found to be thankful for in the midst of my heartache for my son.

  • He receives great care and is loved by many
  • We can still share a laugh together
  • He often gives me a big thumbs up
  • I am still able to host my radio show which I love
  • And my list could go on…

These are a start. A start to training your brain to look for something good. I know it doesn’t make the bad go away, but your attitude will start to shift.

You can also practice gratitude by keeping a journal and documenting things to be thankful for. This is a great tool to go back and read when you are feeling down.

Further Research: Helping Others Increases Morale

The study also found that grateful people stop focusing so much on their pain and problems, and rather start to see how they can help others in distress. It is a great morale booster to take your eyes off your own problems and focus on helping others.

If you need some help to get started with how to give back, we’ve come up with a list of our Top 10 Ways to give back. Click here to view the list.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). God knew that life on earth wasn’t going to always be easy once sin came into the world, but he also knew long ago, what researchers have just recently proven…that if we continually give thanks through it all, we will make it through the tough times and find happiness.

What can it hurt? Give it a try. Give thanks!

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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