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Is the secret to happiness gratitude?

A new study looked at the potential connection between gratitude and happiness.

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Positive Caucasian woman and man keep hands on chests, express gratitude, stand closely, have friendly happy expresssions, stand against white background. Kind generous couple thankful to relatives
(Cast Of Thousands via Shutterstock)

The secret to happiness may be expressing gratitude, new research suggests.

A survey of 2,000 Americans looked at the potential connection between gratitude and happiness — revealing that 65% of respondents who say they’re “very happy” on a daily basis were more likely to “always” give thanks.

While looking at the correlation between life satisfaction and gratitude, a third of respondents said they “always” express gratitude in their everyday lives. Of those, 62% noted they were “very satisfied” with their lives.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Motivosity, the study also found that, on average, respondents believe they express gratitude to others about six times a month – and they receive the same amount of appreciation back.

Regionally, residents in the southwest were more likely to express gratitude than anyone else in the county (75%), followed by those in the northeast (74%) and midwest (73%). Meanwhile, southeast (68%) and west coast residents (63%) were less likely to show gratitude.

And when it comes to expressing kind gestures, 64% think there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to thank someone.

Smiling (44%) and saying “You’re welcome” both ranked as the most common nonverbal and verbal responses (51%) – although the latter ranks second to “My pleasure” in terms of politeness (44% vs. 52%).

Lower down on the list, only one in four (25%) tend to say “It’s nothing,” and another 32% called the phrase “rude.”

Meanwhile, only one in 10 (12%) don’t reply with anything at all, except on the west coast, where that ratio jumps to one in four (24%).

Those Pacific ocean-goers might want to make a change because, according to 69% of the overall panel, it’s rude not to thank someone when they do something kind for you in passing.

That’s more than the number of people who think it’s rude to stay silent when somebody sneezes (61%).

Regardless, 42% of all respondents say a spoken “thank you” goes a long way since that’s the form of gratitude they prefer to receive the most, followed by a written thank you note (21%) and physical rewards like gifts (17%).

"There's a dramatic correlation between gratitude and happiness,” said Logan Mallory, vice president of marketing at Motivosity. “When people are proactive about being grateful, it rewires their brain to look for positives instead of the negatives around them. Previous studies and these survey results tell us that if you want to experience an increase in life satisfaction, just express gratitude more often!"

Respondents say they receive the most gratitude from their spouses or partners (28%), family members (26%), and friends (24%) – with bosses (17%) and co-workers (15%) trailing further down the list.

With bosses and co-workers low on the list to show gratitude, perhaps it’s not surprising that only 18% of employed Americans feel appreciated at work.

Even those who are “very satisfied” with their lives feel twice more recognition at home than at their jobs (46% vs. 24%).

This may be partly due to respondents expecting to receive gratitude and appreciation in different ways when it comes to work versus home.

At work, a quarter would prefer receiving financial incentives – such as a promotion or raise (27%) and a bonus (26%). Others would like to be recognized with a prize or reward (23%), be acknowledged publicly or privately (23% and 20%) and have their bosses listen to their ideas (22%).

Giving them time off (21%), better benefits (20%) and writing them a thank you note (19%) rounded out the list of the top actions employees want to see from their employers.

“Of course, raises and bonuses are important, but public acknowledgment has a massive impact on making people feel more engaged at work,” added Mallory. “Team members want to genuinely feel that their day-to-day efforts make a difference, and recognizing them is crucial. Feeling appreciated at work improves life quality, which also leads to positive results for businesses.”

MOST COMMON RESPONSES TO “THANK YOU”

  1. “You’re welcome” - 51%        
  2. “My pleasure” - 41%    
  3. “No problem” - 28%        
  4. “Don’t mention it” - 28%
  5. “Sure thing” - 25%
  6. “It’s nothing” - 24%
  7. No response - 12% 

MOST COMMON RESPONSES TO “SNEEZING”

  1. “Bless you” - 29%        
  2. “God bless you” - 29%
  3. “Gesundheit” - 13%      
  4. No response - 15%
  5. “Are you OK?” - 11%           
  6. “To your health!” - 4%      

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Motivosity between July 14 and July 18, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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