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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gratitude is Good For You


This Thanksgiving, take time to be grateful. It's not just a nice holiday tradition. It can actually improve your health.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis analyzed the effects of gratitude in a series of studies. In the first, participants were asked to keep a weekly journal and write about five events from the previous week. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group wrote about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about hassles they experienced. The last group wasn't given any direction on choosing positive or negative events.

The second study was similar to the first, with participants divided into the same three groups, but they were asked to keep a daily journal instead of a weekly journal.

In the third study, people with neuromuscular diseases were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Participants in one group were asked to write about things they were grateful for on a daily basis and those in the control group were not asked to write anything at all.

At the end of the first two studies, researchers determined that people expressing gratitude were 25% happier than those focusing on negative experiences. They also had a more positive outlook on life, exercised more, and reported fewer health problems. Practicing gratitude daily was even more beneficial than practicing it weekly.

At the end of the third study, researchers found that in comparison to the control group, those expressing gratitude were more optimistic, had greater satisfaction with their lives in general, and felt much more connected to others. They also slept better and felt more refreshed upon waking.

Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to practice gratitude, but do it more than once a year. Make an effort to be grateful about something every day, whether you keep a journal or not. 

Reference:

Emmons RA and McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003 Feb;84(2):377-89.

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