This month, at least according to some of my friends on Facebook, is the month of gratitude. You may have seen your family and friends dutifully listing things they are thankful for. Your friends are onto something: gratitude is important and I’ll explain why. In my next post, I will explain how to take advantage of these great benefits of gratitude.
Gratitude Changes Your Worldview
When I was in college, I was very negative. I managed to find the worst in everything. So, instead of being excited about having thousands of girls all around me, I could only complain that I was single for a few months. Instead of being thankful to have lots of food available to me, I complained about dining hall food.
I can at least claim it wasn’t my fault – at least not entirely. Evolution has ensured that we notice negative things. Otherwise we’d miss really negative things like being attacked by a lion. Nonetheless, we are not held captive by the older parts of our brains. Our frontal lobes allow us to look at things differently.
Gratitude is a major “re-frame.” This means that being grateful for someone or something changes your perspective on that thing or person. You can take your worldview from one of constant anger, depression, and negativity, and move to one of joy, happiness, and a positive attitude. It just makes sense. If you are thankful for someone or something, you will no longer be angry or hostile toward it.
One exercise I did with my students is to have them list something they are grateful for about somebody they don’t like. For example, they said what they were grateful for about a principal they didn’t like. What I found was that after a few rounds of doing this, they actually came to appreciate the principal.
Gratitude Makes You Happier
Recent studies have shown that being grateful makes you happier. This can translate into popularity very easily. The happier you are, the more likely people will like you. Unless you are sappy about it, happiness and a positive attitude are infectious. Nobody likes to be around angry and depressed complainers.
So, can you see what happens? You become more grateful, you change your view on reality, you become happier, and this makes you more likely to be popular! In the next post, I am going to explain how to be grateful.