say thanks

practicing the art

of gratitude is more than
just saying 

What is the easiest step you can take to feel happier? Be more grateful. You can have a thousand positive things going on in your life but if you are concentrated on one negative aspect, you can’t and won’t be happy. Gratitude is the simple, yet powerful, act of shifting your attention and focusing on the positive aspects of your life.


In a study conducted with college students, all were asked to describe an event for which they felt grateful. Half of the students were assigned to the ‘presence condition’ in which they were asked to describe the ways in which a thing or event has had a positive impact on their lives. The latter was assigned to the ‘absence condition’ and asked to describe what their lives would be like if all the good things, people, and events didn’t exist.


The results were astounding; the group that had been assigned the ‘absence effect’ condition and visualized how their lives would be worse off with the absence of the good things, people, and events responded with higher levels of gratitude (and positive emotion) than those who had been asked to simply count their blessings. This kind of thinking is referred to as ‘Mental Subtraction’ since you are mentally subtracting what you actually have.  


In response to this psychological finding regarding the effects of gratitude on happiness, there has been an influx of ‘gratitude journals’ that have emerged in the market. However, as research has shown, sometimes simply counting what you have does not actually make you more grateful.


As illustrated before with the study, what has been found to be even more effective is visualizing what your life would be like if certain positive parts of it didn’t exist. One study revealed that comparing one’s actual self to a hypothetical self who is worse off can make us feel better. This is called the ‘George Bailey’ effect, in reference to the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.” 


Like the saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Avoid having to lose anything and just practice gratitude instead.


Key Concepts

Gratitude, Alternative Therapy