Current Findings in Gratitude Theory

In honor of Thanksgiving, here’s a rundown on the latest findings in the science of gratitude:

Several years ago, Dr. Michael McCollough of the University of Miami and Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis conducted a scientific study that charted the benefits of regular, mindful thankfulness. Their research concluded:

– 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.

– 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 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.

– 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.

– In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, those who kept gratitude journals 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.

– Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), the study also concluded that gratitude is not religiously dependent:

McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings. (The Osgood File).

So put that spiral notebook on your nightstand and give thanks.

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