Why should we be interested in developing gratitude?

September 17th, 2014
by Val Kinjerski
The evidence that cultivating gratefulness is good for us is overwhelming. Although some of us are naturally more grateful than others, gratitude is something we can develop. Let me tell you about some interesting research by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, leading American investigators of gratitude.

During a ten-week study, they randomly assigned a large group of people into three groups. Every week, one group wrote down what they were grateful for, another wrote about hassles and the third wrote about neutral matters. At the end of the ten weeks, which group do you think felt better about their lives?

Those who kept a gratitude journal not only felt more joy, happiness and satisfaction; they exercised more, had fewer physical symptoms like headaches, stomach upset and muscle stiffness, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week than participants in the other two groups.

Need more convincing? Look at these statistics. In comparison to those people who do not keep gratitude journals, people who keep gratitude journals:

· Are 25% happier

· Sleep ½ hour more per night

· Exercise 33% more per week

· See a reduction in their systolic blood pressure by up to 10% and

· Decrease their dietary fat intake by up to 20%

Writing a gratitude letter and making a gratitude visit to a person who has made a significant difference in your life, but whom you have never properly thanked, is another powerful way to increase your sense of well-being. One study showed that simply writing and delivering one letter increased happiness more than any other gratitude intervention. A single gratitude visit boosted happiness for one month, but additional gratitude visits increased happiness even after six months.

Practicing gratitude has a positive effect on both the person receiving it and the person expressing it. It is hard to be upset or negative when we are being thankful. Hans Selye maintained that “among all emotions, there is one which, more than any other, accounts for the presence or absence of stress in human relations: that is the feeling of gratitude.” Moreover, study after study presents compelling evidence of the ripple effect of gratitude. So it doesn’t matter what we are grateful for, we will feel the benefit through all aspects of our lives, including work.

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