Yet according to recent studies, engaging in gratitude can help alleviate those feelings and promote health and happiness.
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WHAT THE SCIENCE SAYS
Several studies found that being grateful can have a significant impact on our moods, our health and our relationships. According to University of Texas Health Science Center Drs. Blaire and Justice, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”
Among some of the benefits: greater levels of awareness and enthusiasm, decreased physical pain, less stress and lower blood pressure levels. Even negative emotions like anger and resentment showed improvement. Finally, expressing gratitude helps foster greater compassion, empathy and connection with others.
THE STUDIES CONDUCTED
One study conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. from the University of California Davis and Mike McCullough of the University of Miami involved an experiment with journaling. Test subjects were divided into three different groups and were assigned a journaling task for ten weeks.
Volunteers were instructed to do a weekly journal describing five things that happened during the previous week. The first group was assigned to record grateful thoughts. The second group was asked to journal about problems and frustrations.
The third group kept journals of neutral experiences. At the end of ten weeks, surveys showed that the gratitude group was twenty-five percent happier than the negative group. In addition, they reported fewer health issues and even exercised more than their study counterparts.
In a similar experiment by Emmons, people were instructed to do a daily gratitude journal instead of a weekly one. As expected, the results showed that this practice led to even higher overall feelings of well-being. However, there was one additional benefit discovered in this study. Participants reported that they felt more willing to help others.
Another study focused on people suffering from neuromuscular disorders (NMDs). It was concluded that gratitude journaling also benefits their quality of life. Individuals who kept such a journal reported better restorative sleep and improved energy.
They also felt more optimistic about the future and had a general sense of contentment in life. Even their relationships and connections with others were enhanced.
DEVELOPING GRATITUDE IN YOUR LIFE
With all the happy benefits achieved through gratitude, how can you cultivate this in your own life? Most positive psychologists suggest taking small consistent steps when beginning a positive change. In doing so, you’re more likely to make a lasting change over time rather than start a practice and discontinue it.
Start small by keeping a daily gratitude journal. Rather than include lengthy entries, just list a few things you are grateful for each day. Do it first thing in the morning or before going to bed.
Another option that fosters gratitude is verbal expression. Make sure you say thank you to someone every day. Tell your partner, friends or family something you appreciate about them. Keep it simple and heartfelt.
Try expressing gratitude towards yourself. Acknowledge something you did well today or recognize something good about yourself. Be sure to do this daily.
If you pray or meditate, include gratitude in your intentions. Focus on your blessings and appreciate them. Develop a special thankfulness prayer or meditation ritual to include in your practice.
You can also practice gratitude during ordinary moments of the day. When eating, give thanks for your meal. When walking, give thanks for your health. When working, give thanks for your abilities.
Incorporating daily gratitude in your life can improve your overall well-being. While the challenges of life still remain, being grateful can help us deal with them in a more positive way.
Reference: Wright, Carolanne. (2012, December 14). A daily dose of gratitude encourages health, happiness and vibrancy – researchers assert. Natural News.