We already know that gratitude can help us sleep better, lower stress levels, and offer these other benefits. Now researchers are measuring just how much happier it can make you and how much effort it takes to get that bump.
“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, told NBC Today. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Emmons found that when people kept a gratitude journal, they were happier. So much happier, in fact, after a month of daily journaling, they showed a 10 percent increase on subjective happiness—that’s the same jump in happiness you’d expect if you doubled your income.
In this study, researchers asked subjects to simply record events of their day in a journal. One group of participants was told to make a list of how their life was better than most. What the study found was that participants in the gratitude group reported much higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than the control group. They felt more optimistic about the upcoming week and more connected with others.
“It appears that participation in the gratitude condition led to substantial and consistent improvements in people’s assessments of the global well-being,” the study noted.
Ready to start your own gratitude journal? The good news is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. It can be as simple as opening a specifically designated gratitude notebook and taking 60 seconds to list three to five things you’re grateful for that happened that day or the day before.
You can make it part of your morning routine as you sip your coffee or your bedtime ritual as you wind down for bed. Keep it simple and write down the first thoughts that come up; even one word or a short phrase is enough—it could be anything from a beautiful sunset to a tasty meal to a yoga class or favorite TV show. Over time, you might find yourself getting more detailed and wanting to spend more time on journaling. But if not, that’s fine, too—a bullet journal is a proven shortcut to happiness.