Financial Planning Recommendation: Practice Gratitude

The importance of gratitude was recognized as far back as 54 BCE when author/politician Cicero claimed in a letter that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”  Apparently, he really thought highly of being thankful! More recently, scientific research on the psychology of gratitude has found a plethora of benefits associated with gratitude, from increasing your mental and physical well-being to improving your interpersonal relationships.

One benefit in particular caught my attention because it could have big implications for your ability to achieve your financial goals.  Studies have demonstrated that people that practice gratitude are better able to delay economic benefits –in other words grateful people are better at saving!  Perhaps Cicero wasn’t too far off the mark with his bold claims back in BCE!

While this finding might be promising news for your financial plan, being grateful takes practice.  Most research studies found that the positive benefits of gratitude were only realized when gratitude was practiced regularly over extended periods of time (several months), but fortunately once these positive benefits started appearing, they started increasing over time. Essentially, the longer research participants practiced gratitude, the greater the positive benefits of the practice.

Ready to up your thankful game and crush your savings goals?  Here are three ideas to get started:

  • Start a gratitude journal. Keep it next to your bed and every night write down at least one thing that you were grateful for that day.
  • Play the gratitude game. If you have left-over Halloween Skittles and kids, you might especially like this one.  1) Put a mini-bag of Skittles (or M&M’s) in a bowl. 2) When it’s their turn, each player closes their eyes, takes a Skittle and makes a statement based on the color of Skittle the draw (Red = share a person you are grateful for. Orange = name an experience you are grateful for. Yellow = Tell about a skill you are grateful for. Green = share a memory you are grateful for. Purple = tell about a place you are grateful for). 3) Eat Skittle. My family had a lot of fun with this game -longest lasting bag of Skittles ever!
  • Write an impromptu thank you letter. Think of someone that you are grateful for and write them a letter telling them why. Bonus points if you can hand deliver the letter. This one will make you and the other person both feel good: win-win!
  • For more ideas on ways to practice gratitude, check out this list from the Greater Good Science Center

So here’s your financial planning recommendation for November: Add a simple act of gratitude to your to-do list every day, and keep going. If you forget one day, just pick it back up again the next day. Pretty soon being thankful will become a mindless habit, and hopefully you find yourself with a healthy savings account and collection of many other virtues along the way!