Why Gratitude Is Your Best Money Tool
It’s no secret that an attitude of gratitude is good for our minds, bodies and relationships. Focusing on the things you’re grateful for each day, rather than the little annoyances or what’s missing from life, is a ticket to happiness. But did you know that a regular gratitude practice can also make you better off financially?
Happiness and the overall boost you get from being grateful has been shown by science to help you earn more, save more and spend less.
How Gratitude Relieves Materialism
Being bombarded by advertising on every screen and exposed to the daily lives of the rich and famous through social media drives the need to want more. Materialism drives us to want more stuff, measure our success based on our possessions and compare what we have with our friends and colleagues. And none of us are immune.
Yet, no matter what they earn, materialistic people are less happy. Unsurprisingly, people who are more materialistic spend more money and are more comfortable with debt. Compared to others they are also less satisfied with life and experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
According to researchers, gratitude is an antidote to materialism. The two go hand in hand: people who are more grateful tend to be less materialistic, while low feelings of gratitude are linked to higher materialism.
Robert Emmons – a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis and a pioneer in the study of gratitude – believes that this happens because in being grateful you acknowledge the good things you already have in your life.
Your brain is wired to appreciate novelty, which is why you adapt to that new pair of shoes, TV or car and the pleasure soon wears off. Gratitude has the opposite effect.
It allows you to appreciate the things you otherwise take for granted, giving you a little happiness boost, meaning you’ve got less desire to go in search of something new to buy. By wanting fewer things, you spend less of your money – providing a good boost to your bank balance.
Be Grateful and Your Income Will Follow
We often think that as soon as we get that promotion or a better paying job we’ll be happier. But a study from the US suggests that it might be the other way around. That being happy in the first place is what helps you earn more in the long run. The study looked at thousands of young people and found that those who reported high levels of happiness and life satisfaction in their teens went on to earn significantly more a decade later.
The psychological and social benefits of gratitude include happiness, higher levels of self-worth, increased levels of helpfulness, generosity and compassion. In short, people who practice gratitude are happier and more pleasant to be around. This is a big benefit in the workplace and it’s been found that people who have these characteristics tend to be promoted faster.
So instead of worrying about your income, it might be better to focus on being grateful and the money will follow.
Gratitude Makes You More Patient
While your parents might tell you that instant gratification is a trait of Millennials, it’s actually pretty universal. The desire for getting our reward now, and thinking that benefits we have to wait for are less worthwhile is a tendency that doesn’t discriminate by birth year.
Behavioural economic researchers have found that impatience creates the behaviours we tend to associate with risky financial decisions like impulse buying or relying on credit cards.
Impatience is linked more closely with certain emotions such as sadness and envy, which helps explain why retail therapy is a thing. Usually, the way to manage negative spending behaviour is through willpower and self-control, which is hard.
Grateful people are more patient. Not only that, they’re able to appreciate future rewards more rather than opting for what they can get now. Effectively, gratitude offers better money management with less effort, making it easier to resist temptation today and save for tomorrow.
Spend Wisely To Boost Your Gratitude
For all its benefits, you’d think that cultivating gratitude would take a lot of work. In fact, it’s a surprisingly simple exercise that takes as little as a few minutes a week. Writing in a gratitude journal is one popular way, as is writing a gratitude letter.
But research has found another way. By spending your money on experiences you’ll not only boost your feelings of gratitude, but be more generous towards others. While people tend to say positive things about the stuff they buy, we tend to be more grateful for what we’ve done. And even just reflecting on those experiences is found to have this positive effect.
So go ahead and buy the weekend away or bridge climb. It will not only improve your life, but that of those around you.
Eliza Morawska is a Brisbane based freelance writer and personal finance blogger. When she isn’t trying to figure out how to live better for less, she’s on the hunt for a good coffee. You can find her on her website Money Meet Mind.