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Does being thankful make you smarter and more successful?

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

By Phil Slade

In short, yes, significantly. In five major ways, research shows the positive benefits to us cognitively, and to our careers.

  1. Thankfulness improves physical health. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, thankful people are more likely to take care of themselves, exercise, and experience fewer aches and pains.  This means you live longer and therefore have more time to be successful.

  2. Thankfulness improves your psychological well-being. Emotions that are toxic to our mental fitness, such as envy, shame, resentment, frustration and regret are experienced much less frequently according to preeminent researcher Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. People who are thankful experience less depression, therefore focus more on cognitively complex things for more extended periods of time, which builds their general intelligence. You’re happier and smarter.

  3. Thankful people build better relationships. In 2014, an article published in Emotion showed that people wanted to have deeper relationships with others who were generally appreciative. Further to this, many studies have shown that highly appreciative people are less aggressive toward others and better able to empathise which also strengthens social connectedness. The better, stronger, deeper networks you have, the more successful people were.

  4. Thankful people get better sleep. A study in 2011 published Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being showed that 15 minutes spent writing grateful thoughts immediately prior to sleeping made for a more peaceful, longer slumber. Sleep is when the brain recuperates and solves complex problems. The more you sleep the better able you are to navigate life.

  5. Thankful people are more secure and resilient. Research in sports psychology shows that grateful athletes have higher self-esteem, make fewer social comparisons, and are less emotionally hurt by criticism – all elements critical to increasing performance. Appreciating other people’s accomplishments means they are also more likely to champion you when you need it, leading to becoming more individually successful.

Being more grateful is something we can all build into our lives. Who knew that making an effort to appreciate others and life’s blessings more generally would have such a dramatic, positive impact on us individually.


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