Expressing our gratitude for the things we have has been linked to increased happiness.

We, as a society, are always stressed about things – daily traffic, pending bills, cliffhanger of that one show not airing for another month, office presentation, schoolwork, gas prices (well, until recently) – the list is extensive. Belonging to an economic system of demand and supply based on the simple principle that human wants are infinite, it is no surprise that, all stress aside, there is always something we want that we cannot quite have.

We live in the era of choices and in the digital age where these choices are easily accessible, even if not easily affordable, the internet is a window that gives us a tantalizing glimpse of all the things we do not have. We are living better now than we ever have and are unhappier now than anyone one would have believed possible.

New research conducted at Baylor University has unveiled an interesting solution to this epidemic of unhappiness that has gripped the world. The research, very simply, concludes that we need to be more grateful for what we have rather than focus on what we do not. To those rolling their eyes right about now – this practice is easier said than done. I would not write if off as a cliché just yet. The research found that people became progressively unhappier with material gain, contrary to their belief that getting those thing would make them very happy.

The co-author of this study, James Roberts, Ph.D, explains this by saying that we humans are very adaptable and hence, every time we acquire a new possession, our brain adapts to it, thereby resetting the bar and raising our expectations, leaving us feeling unfulfilled and craving for the next unattainable thing. Indeed, this drive helps materialists achieve material goals, but previous research indicates that this constant state of unfulfillment makes them lead dissatisfied lives, with poor self-esteem, weak personal relationships and detachment from community as a by-product of the material gain.

Grateful people, in comparison, tend to lead lives with deeper meaning and purpose. The simple mental state of being content with what one has, instead of pining for what they do not, goes a long way in improving one’s standard of living. The concept of contentment and gratefulness is an healthier approach to life is fairly simple to understand, but rather difficult to apply in a society that is constantly telling us it is odd not to want more.

This study entitled  “Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need for satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction,” is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. The spiritual journey towards gratitude may be a long, winding and difficult one, with setbacks every now and then, but it is also a journey that is worth undertaking to create a better future for ourselves and for those around us. Gratitude and happiness can be cultivated, like any other good habit, and the time to begin doing so is now.

Check out the full article at Spirituality Health for more.