Why Gratitude is the Secret Sauce to a Bliss-Filled Life

For years, we’ve known about the many benefits of living in gratitude—it seems fairly obvious. But why does it work?

When I was in college, I had a girlfriend who I worked with that was the most grateful person I had ever met.

Even though she came from difficult familial circumstances, had just gone through a divorce at the time I met her, and was struggling to stay afloat, she always had a smile on her face.

She kept her modest house clean, she enjoyed nothing more than a good cup of tea, a homemade scone, and to work on a creative project. As a matter of fact, she relished those things.

I remember being so taken aback at how often she said ‘I’m just so thankful for…’ And, ‘Isn’t life great?’

It wasn’t more than a year after I met her, she met the love of her life, and I watched as she transformed her whole situation into one of loving wife, mother, artist and maybe the most Blissed-out person ever.

I knew she was on to something.

Many Americans thrive on that fleeting sense of gratitude at a new purchase—but it quickly fades, and we move on to the next fix.

In the many years since, I’ve tried to consciously look around and find things in my life to be thankful for. While I can’t say I haven’t gone through some hard ‘stuff’ for the sake of learning, I can say it has been a consistent, upward trajectory toward Bliss.

Growing up, gratitude was somewhat foreign to me. I never heard my family speak in appreciation or love for the little things in life. While we learned our pleases and thank-yous, and learned to be grateful for blessings at Thanksgiving or Christmastime—it was fleeting and temporary.

We were thankful when we got a new toy, or a cool new pair of shoes, but living in a state of gratitude was a foreign concept.

Many Americans thrive on that fleeting sense of gratitude at a new purchase—but it quickly fades, and we move on to the next fix.

A 2016 study from Cornell University showed that people expressed more gratitude for experiential purchases (spending money on experiences, such as vacations, a night out with friends, fun activities, etc.) than for material ones.

“The kind of gratitude that participants in the studies felt from experiential purchases was more likely to be “untargeted,” not attributed to someone else’s actions. The researchers suggest that this kind of gratitude for an experience can result in a strong urge to somehow express that feeling in action—such as giving to others, even to anonymous others.”

Actively appreciating your life now, creates a sense of well-being, happiness and joy.

Experiences have a bigger impact on us because the memory stays with us longer than the temporary satisfaction of purchasing a new pair of shoes. The newness of the purchase fades quickly—and soon, we need another pair of shoes. But the memory of an amazing family (or romantic) vacation, ritual or activity stays with us for a lifetime, and we hold onto the learnings and emotions forever. The experience adds to our life story—and according to the aforementioned study—makes us want to elevate the lives of people around us as well.

Actively appreciating your life now, creates a sense of well-being, happiness and joy. Appreciation for the things you love about your current life opens the door for the Universe to bring you more things to appreciate. Gratitude begets more gratitude.

A 2015 article in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that “higher levels of gratitude were associated with higher levels of personal well-being, greater life satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological distress.”

It’s a basic law of the Universe, as Dr. Wayne Dyer said, ‘when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’. Even quantum physicists have discovered the ‘observer effect’. A particle will behave in accordance to the observer’s expectation. In medical studies, placebos consistently perform as well as real medications.

Real Life Practice, 3 Ways to Practice Gratitude

Start a Gratitude Journal

Every evening write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for in your life. The people, experiences, and even things. Make it specific.

Mirror Work

Louise Hay pioneered the practice of looking in the mirror daily and telling yourself how much you love YOU just the way you are. Why not add a few things about yourself for which you’re grateful?

Moment-to-Moment Mindfulness

In each moment, you can choose to look around and find something to be thankful for. The seat in which you’re sitting, the bed that helped you rest all night, your children’s hugs, the garden you nurture, the sun shining. I promise, there’s always something. Start small.

So why not practice a little gratitude for the things in your life already going well, and see if you can’t elevate the rest. I know you’ll be surprised at how quickly your Bliss-filled life appears.