What are some thoughts that can make us feel happier? Well, one of the most studied thought patterns that we know is associated with higher subjective well-being is the thought pattern of experiencing more gratitude. This idea of just feeling a little bit grateful that you're focused on the benefits in life. We're going to define gratitude here as a positive emotional state in which you recognize and appreciate what you have received in life. That's important because gratitude is an emotional state but the way we get to that emotional state is through our thought patterns. We need to think about and attend to different things. When we think about experiencing gratitude, we need to focus on how we're going to shift our thought patterns and how we're going to shift our attention. One of the main experts in this topic of gratitude, this guy, Bob Emmons, had a paper where he talks about, you should think about gratitude as involving two different steps. The first step is recognizing and attending to the fact that there's something good in your life. You have these great friends, you have these great families, you have your health, you have like some delicious chocolate bar or coffee that you're drinking, whatever it is you notice and attend like, hey, this is a positive circumstance or a positive outcome in my life. You're changing your attention. Then you're realizing that that didn't need to be that way. In some sense, this is like a gift that the universe gave to you or like some person gave to you like there's some reason for this that you're really thankful for. Those are the steps of gratitude. You can shift your attention to what the good thing is. You think like, wow, that didn't need to be that way. I'm so lucky that this happened to me. These are the steps of gratitude. The evidence suggests that taking those steps a little experiencing a little bit more of this emotion can really make you feel happier. One of my favorite ways to experience more gratitude is the act of thinking about it and expressing it to the people around you. Because often if you think of the things you're most grateful for in life, often they're not things. They are like other people and what other people have done to you. But honestly, we rarely say it. Sometimes you say thank you as a one-off, but we really rarely express the true gratefulness that we have for the people around us. This study had people do that. This is a study by Marty Seligman and colleagues. He had his subjects do what he calls a gratitude visit. He says in the next week, I want you to write a letter of gratitude to someone in your life who's helped you or has been especially kind to you but if you've never properly thank that person. Then I want you to deliver the letter in question to the person and this is like precovered like show up at their house and read it to them. Don't say anything yet, just want to like get through this letter. What do people predict? People predict this is going to be like awkward, or maybe when I presented this to my ELL students in the class, somebody screamed out emo which I guess is like high school students speak for like too awkward too emotional or wherever, this is what we predict. But in practice, when this happens, people really appreciate this. Like think about how you'd feel if somebody did this to you. It actually feels like nice to have somebody express their thanks to you. But the graph I'm going to show you is not the person who receives the gratitude visit. The graph I'm going to show you is what happens to the people who do this gratitude visit. You if you were the person doing this visit. I'm going to show you the white bars and when you do the gratitude visit, bigger bars are more happiness. The white bars are when you do the gratitude visit versus a control where you just list them happy memories, that's the bar in black. What you see is that before you do this gratitude visit, there's not really any difference in people's happiness. You get a small but significant boost immediately after you do this gratitude visit. But what I find amazing about this dataset is these researchers followed the subjects out up to six months later. What you find is that subjects show a significant boost in their happiness after doing this gratitude visit for some time between 1-3 months. We're having this conversation in the summer, in July of the summer and this means that if you were to do this exercise, you do a gratitude visit, you'd get a boost in your happiness that would last you like significantly into the beginning of the school year and that feels incredible but that's in part because we just neglect the power of gratitude. It can have that long-term impact on our happiness. You might be like, well, why does it have such a big impact on our happiness? Like what's going on? Well, gratitude does a couple of things. One is that gratitude can help us fight this bias that we've talked about before, hedonic adaptation. This phenomenon where we get used to stuff. When you're really grateful and you think about a thing that you have in your life, it completely fight on adaptation because you start noticing all the good stuff again, you stop getting used to it because you attend to a notice all the good things about it. It's a way to fight. One of the main reasons we stopped being happy with the stuff that we have, but gratitude helps and other ways too, it has a ton of other benefits. One is that it helps us be a little bit more pro-social. Gratitude in and of itself is a pro-social emotion. You notice this good thing and you realize, wow, somebody gave this to me like the universe. Someone did this nice thing for me and you want to give back, like it's an emotion that causes you to give back, which means more grateful, doing more random acts of kindness. That's a behavior that promotes happiness. You get this positive feedback loop. But the nice thing is you do when you're feeling grateful aren't just necessarily for other people. You also do nicer stuff for yourself. If you're thinking about ways that you can eat a little bit more healthy, maybe you want to engage in these positive traits. You want to do all the things that are good for you but hard, it turns out that gratitude also helps you invest in your future self. It just makes doing those hard things that you know are good for you a little bit easier. That includes evidence suggests saving for money. In fact, if you make people a little bit grateful because you have them right in a gratitude journal, have them increase their gratitude over time. They end up saving more money again, they're investing in their future selves in part because they feel so grateful because it's positive emotion just naturally makes them do that. That's makes it gratitudes down awesome. How can we harness all the benefits of gratitude? Of course, we have our psych pro tips. But psych pro tip number 1 is that you need to commit to focusing on the stuff that you're grateful for. That means that you need to focus on becoming a benefit finder instead of a hassle finder, you need to ignore your hassles. What do I mean by benefit finding? Well, it's the simple act of like looking into the bright side of things like even in a negative event. Is there a way that you can find the so-called silver lining? Again, this sounds cheesy. This sounds like grandmother Lee advice, especially in a day and age where there's a lot of stuff going wrong. Where we can look and find the hassles and the bad things out there. The evidence suggests that even in a bad situation, if you can find the good thing, that's going to be helpful and it's going to be helpful for your action. Remember, you're going to invest in hard things, invest in your future self. It's not this lame, like, oh, just accept everything. Finding the benefits can help you take the action to change the parts that are not very good. Finding the silver lining is really great. In addition, there's evidence that you can try to promote gratitude by committing to a practice where you notice it even more. One of my favorite practices that help you do this is the act of writing in a gratitude journal or a gratitude list. Probably some of you who've seen apps where you can write things you're grateful for or even just like notebooks that they sell where it's like this is a gratitude notebook you don't need that. It can literally be any scrap of paper or a notes app on your application. But you just commit to scribbling down 3-5 things that you're grateful for. Evidence from people like Sonya Lyubomirsky suggests as little as two weeks, you'll see significant boost in your well-being just through the simple act of writing down a few things you're grateful for. One of the thought patterns we need to harness is gratitude and one of the best ways that we can do that. The last psych pro tip in the gratitude section is to focus on ways that we can express our gratitude to the people around us. You just saw that the act of genuinely thanking somebody can improve your well-being significantly for over a month and so expressing your gratitude to other people is a powerful, powerful effect. We just don't do it that often. That also comes from a misconception. I think we think that people we're grateful for in our lives, know that we're grateful for them. But there's evidence from Nick Epley and his colleagues at the University of Chicago that that's simply not the case. We assume that people know that we're thankful for them and that we appreciate them, but they don't. The act of saying it gives them a tremendous benefit that we don't expect and it feels awesome for us. All this goes to say we should make experiencing this wonderful emotion of gratitude more a part of our lives, it will increase our happiness. It'll make it easier to self-regulate and do the hard things we want, and it's just nice to the people around us.