Ancient scriptures instruct us to be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. It turns out that our Creator knows exactly how He created our bodies to thrive in modern times. There is scientific evidence that counting your blessings produces multiplied health benefits. Dr. Robert Emmons and his colleagues at the University of California at Davis are among the pioneers in research on gratitude. Dr. Emmons leads a movement called positive psychology. Instead of focusing on illness, addictions and emotional problems, positive psychology studies health-promoting behavior and the pleasurable parts of life.
In one research project, Dr. Emmons reports that participants were divided into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. Another group described five daily hassles and then a control group listed five events that had affected them in some way.
The above study showed that the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems than the other participants. Results from a second study showed that daily writing led to a greater increase in gratitude than weekly practice. A third study reproduced these same results among a group of people suffering from various neuromuscular diseases such as fibromyalgia.
Similar studies of people using daily gratitude journals reported the gratitude group getting more sleep, spending less time awake before falling asleep and feeling more refreshed in the morning. Other related studies show that gratitude can have a protective effect against heart attacks. Dr. Emmon’s book, “Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” details the results of his research.
GETTING STARTED—If you would like to increase the level of gratitude in your life, here are three suggestions:
Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal – Set aside time daily to record 3-5 things that you are thankful for. Make it as simple or elaborate as you prefer. The important thing is to establish the daily practice of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events and write them down. Dr. Emmons suggests that performing this exercise for four days a week for three weeks can increase your happiness level by 25% or more for over six months.
Write a Gratitude Letter – Sit down and write a letter or an email to someone who has left a positive influence on your life and you’ve never taken the time to thank them. Even better, write out the letter and then read it to the person face to face.
Have a Gratitude Partner – The support of others encourages healthy behaviors. Just like an exercise partner can help you maintain the discipline of working out, a person with whom you share gratitude lists and give permission to remind you when you are sending out invitations to attend your pity party, can help you change the whole tone of your life.
So, what next step will you take to multiply the benefits of gratitude? What if you began today with even just one of these three suggestions? Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving week!
QUESTION: What’s one thing you are most thankful for? Share your gratitude in the comment section below.