The Science of Gratitude

We all know we are supposed to count our blessings and all that jazz, blah blah blah.  We’ve heard it all before.  Gratitude Shmaditude.   But this is science, ya’ll.  Not some woo woo, you’ll feel good if you keep a gratitude journal and don’t forget to draw hearts all around it – this is the real deal.  Check out this research.  It’s from peer reviewed professional scientific journals that statistically show that practicing gratitude actually works to makes us happier and healthier people.

In one study, a group was asked to write down 5 things for which they were grateful for 10 weeks and the other group wrote down 5 hassles in the same amount of time.  The gratitude group reported feeling “more satisfied and more optimistic with their lives.”  They also “reported fewer physical symptoms (headache, acne, coughing, or nausea) and more time spent exercising” (Lyubomirsky, 2007, p. 90)  Say what???  More time exercising just because I’m grateful?  Sign me up!

In a similar study conducted over 6 weeks, the participants who wrote 5 things they were grateful for 3 times a week increased their levels of happiness compared to the group who did not (Lyubomirsky, 2007).  Yay!

Experimental studies consistently show that people who practice gratitude even once a week from 1 to 12 weeks “become happier and healthier, and remain happier for as long as six months after the experiment is over” (Lyubomirsky, 2013, p. 26).  Are you kidding me?  You get to remain happier, even after they stop writing things they are grateful for?  I’m grateful that even if you get lazy with your gratitude lists that you still get benefits!

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky also found through gratitude studies that people were more energetic, more hopeful, more empathetic, more forgiving as well as less materialistic, less depressed, less anxious, less lonely, less envious and less neurotic (2007).

Well, I’ll have what they’re all having which looks like it’s gratitude, so I’m grateful for you, dear reader, for you positive psychology (especially gratitude) researchers, for experimental and control groups who participated in the research, for deadlines that get me to sit down and write and for this keyboard with a special shout out to the delete key.  That’s five – now what about you?  What are your five?  Write them down.  Say them out loud.  Put them in a letter to someone you’re grateful for – just start getting grateful and start reaping the rewards of gratitude. Thanks science!

References:

Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2007). The How of Happiness:  A Scientific Approach To Getting the Life You Want.  New York, Penguin Press.

Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2013).  The Myths of Happiness:  What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does.  New York, Penguin Press.

 

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Elizabeth Kupferman is a counselor in Southlake, Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth area) dedicated to helping women overcome depression, grief, and anxiety so they can find happiness and achieve their dreams.

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