Two weeks ago, I was due to fly home on an early-morning flight from a conference in Cleveland. There was just one problem: The airplane was knocked out of commission by a mechanical issue and the flight was canceled. A mob of angry customers rushed upon the poor customer service agent.
I was last in line. By the time I reached the desk, the woman looked up at me, expecting the same furious reaction. Instead she got this: “I know it can’t be easy on you to deal with all these people, and I really appreciate your help in getting me home.”
The surprised agent looked up. I told her where I was going. The bad news: She initially didn’t find any flights to get me home that day. Then she double-checked and found a flight out, but it was on a different airline leaving right then. She called and asked the airline to hold the plane so I could run down and make it. I did, and I arrived home that same day just a mere hour after my originally-scheduled time. I don’t know if expressing gratitude prompted her to check again and get me on a flight. But, I do know that I got home in time to complete my freelance work and I got paid right on schedule.
This is just one example of how gratitude can make a positive difference. Did you also know that gratitude can make you happier — and therefore wealthier? Read on to learn more.
Gratitude Can Broaden Your Social Network
There are numerous studies that show how expressing gratitude promotes “prosocial behavior.” This means you’re more likely to engage with potential friends, colleagues, and supervisors, cementing those friendships so that your network expands.
A robust social network can also lead to higher-paid work opportunities, not to mention you’ll have more people to call upon when your car breaks down or you need helping moving.
Gratitude Rewires Your Brain for Happiness and Health
There’s a lot of research that shows how gratitude and happiness are strongly linked. Take, for example, one of the most widely-cited studies on gratitude. The authors of this study divvied people up into various groups, some of whom journaled negative things, neutral things, or positive things they were grateful for each day.
At the end of the study, people who journaled about gratitude exercised more, had fewer medical problems, slept better and for a longer periods time, were more optimistic, and felt more connected to those around them.
Indeed, it doesn’t take a brain scientist to see how these attributes can make you more productive, healthier, and wired to go make more money.
How to Practice Gratitude
Have we convinced you? Good! Let’s get ready to be grateful.
The first thing you should know is that practicing gratitude isn’t a one-and-done thing. You can’t make a single donation to a charity and expect the good vibes to last forever, for example.
Instead, you need to make gratitude an everyday practice. In fact, two other scientists showed that daily gratitude journaling can have lasting impacts on how your brain registers gratitude. This can happen in as little as three months.
Expressing gratitude literally rewires your brain, but only if you do it frequently. Take a look at three ways you can start practicing gratitude:
- Say “Thank You” to at Least One Person per Day
No, we’re not talking about the generic “thank yous” that you pop on the end of your emails. You need to either write out why you’re thankful in that email, and/or say it to someone face-to-face.
If you’re a supervisor at your work, this goes doubly for you. In one nifty experiment, a university alumni donations manager who expressed gratitude towards call-center employees managed to increase the number of calls made by employees by 50%.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal
I admit, I was super skeptical when I first tried this myself two years ago. “Jeez, this is hokey,” I thought. “How will thinking happy thoughts help me out?”
But, like we saw above, there’s actually some serious science that shows how gratitude journaling can literally rewire your brain. And in my case, keeping a gratitude journal actually helped me double my income after about a year.
This one is my favorite because you don’t need to share your “experiment” with a doubtful world. You can do it in the comfort of your own home, without anyone knowing, and without it taking up a ton of time.
All you have to do is write down three things per day that you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be profound revelations; it can be as simple as “today, I’m really grateful for having heat in my apartment, because it’s cold outside.” You can expand upon them if you want, or just leave them as bullet points. It’s your journal; do what you want as long as you’re consistent.
- Send Thank You Cards
Here’s another idea. Buy a box of thank you notes, and make a practice of sending out at least one per week. You’ll brighten someone’s day, and provide yourself with an opportunity to express gratitude.
How Will You Spread Thanks?
Expressing gratitude is a wealth-generating tip that only achieves results if you put in the work. You can’t just read about it and not actually do it.
So, we challenge you: How will you practice gratitude daily? And how far can that goodwill go toward helping you boost your bank account and save for your financial goals?