Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Be thankful, be happy

Reporting on his research, Emmons writes, "Preliminary findings suggest that those who regularly practice grateful thinking do reap emotional, physical, and interpersonal benefits. [...] [G]rateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism [...] [T]he practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness." That cultivating gratitude can fight depression is no small deal, as antidepressants have become the most-prescribed medications in the nation. Not only all that, but being grateful can, or might, also protect us from heart attacks, lessen physical pain and confer other physiological benefits.

This is from Steve Heilig's review of Robert A. Emmon's Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. Emmon's website is here. On his research page, we find some of the benefits of gratitude:

  • * In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.