Being thankful can be a powerful force

TheBoldAge looks at how acts of gratitude and thanks improves happiness

Published by Nigel Pritchard on May 02, 2022

Does stuff make you happy? Brand marketeers through various modern media channels such as: social media, TV and advertising boards would certainly like us to think so. The latest car, phone, gizmo, dress, cologne, snack, golf club will make us feel fulfilled, complete and happy, or so they want us to think. However, just ask yourself, how long did you feel fulfilled and happy? Unfortunately, for many of us, stuff tends to give us a transitory high and somehow never really feels real and with it comes the low. So, what can improve our overall feeling of wellbeing, allowing us to bathe in the warm afterglow of happiness where the very act of remembering it, makes you smile.

The philosopher, Cicero was quoted as saying, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” A few thousand years on, New York Times best-selling author A J Jacobs, in his book, ‘Thanks a Thousand’ took this a whole step further and took a journey to thank every person that played a part in making his morning coffee, from the barista, the roastery, the lorry drivers, the construction guys that built the road, to the growers and even Beyonce for the music that kept the lorry drivers going. Responding to a question from Blue Zone who asked, “What are some of your favourite stories or anecdotes from thanking people?” he replied “I called the woman who does pest control for the warehouse where the coffee beans are stored. I said, ‘I know this sounds strange, but I want to thank you for keeping the bugs out of my coffee.’ She said, ‘Well, that is strange. But thank YOU. We don’t get much appreciation around here. So, you just made my day.’ And that made my day.” Just think about the power of that, for one moment, a simple thank you could make somebody’s day and go a long way to helping yours to.

There have been several studies on gratitude one of the earliest, we could find, was conducted by Emmons and McCullough back in 2003. What this ground-breaking work found, was that gratitude can significantly increase happiness. The study respondents in one of three cohorts were asked to reflect on the previous week and write down 5 things they were grateful for, felt better about life, were more excited about the week to come and experienced less illness than their colleagues in the other groups. The other 2 teams were asked to write down five hassles or 5 things that had affected them whether positive or negative.

Why would this be? A study by the National Institute of Health found that people who focused on gratitude experienced an increase in blood flow to the Hypothalamus, which is responsible for releasing hormones and regulating our appetite. Interestingly, this was followed up by the University of Manchester who found that students who maintained a gratitude diary for 15 minutes each evening, slept better and were less anxious.

For us Boldies there are potentially other longer-term benefits. A US study, conducted by Wood, Joseph, Atkins and Lloyd, published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, found that the more optimistic you are the better your chance of a longer lifespan. Harvard Health reported in August 2021, that being grateful “can improve relationships. For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.”

Writing this blog made me reflect on something I had experienced and seen for myself. Late last year Andrew, from the Boldie office, and I were on a project and before getting on the train each morning we stopped at the station coffee shop and a Pret. My fellow Boldie was always thanking and engaging with the people serving and the reciprocated smiles and light-hearted banter, cheered and lightened our mood, despite the project itself being intense and sometimes difficult. The story didn’t finish there; I was not involved for a few weeks but on my return, Andrew was by now on first-name terms and regularly getting a free coffee or cake, and always a warm welcome. One lady server even went out of her way to tell me that his morning thank you was something she looked forwards to, was greatly appreciated and set her up for the day. So, Boldies it does work.

Looking around, we have much to be thankful for, a thank you here and there, a show of appreciation and being grateful for what life delivers up, will not go unrewarded. Not just on the off-chance of a longer, happier life but maybe a free coffee too!