skip to Main Content

Gratitude: the scientifically proven benefits of being thankful.

Gratitude: The Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Being Thankful.

It is suggested that gratitude is a very potent means of promoting health, wealth and well-being.  But is there real substance to this claim.  It turns out the answer is yes.  In this article I explore some exciting research findings about gratitude.

The positive physiological and phycological effects of gratitude are scientifically proven.

While some authors take a somewhat mystical approach to the power of gratitude its effects have tested with scientific rigor.  In a research paper entitled “Counting blessing versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective wellbeing” the authors Emmons and McCullough conclusively demonstrated the positive effects of gratitude.  In the study, one group of people were asked to spend a few minutes a day writing about things they were thankful for; a second group was ask to write about things that annoyed them and a third about random events in their lives.  The study was replicated by applying the same tasks to 3 different groups of people that were selected at random.  This allows a high degree of confidence in the conclusions made. Before and after the test phase the participants were rated using a multi-faceted happiness index. The ‘grateful’ group ended up happier, more optimistic about the future, were healthier and exercised more.  There was no change for the group that wrote about random stuff and the complainers were less happy at the end of the experiment.

The proven benefits of gratitude

In fact a multitude of studies, have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude.  Research confirms that the benefits of gratitude can be realized by almost anyone who practices it; even when confronted by life threating circumstances like terminal illness.

Well-designed peer reviewed research has clearly shown the following benefits of practicing gratitude:

  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Boosts feelings of optimism, joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, and other positive emotions.
  • Encourages us to take better care of our health.
  • Strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, increases tolerance to aches and pains.
  • Grateful people get more hours of sleep, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.
  • Helps people recover from traumatic events including post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Promotes forgiveness
  • Improves organizational health – for example teachers that practice gratitude feel more satisfied and accomplished, and less emotionally exhausted.

I think the message it clear.  Gratitude works.  What I am particularly excited by is the fact that it is so simple to do.  It doesn’t take years of training to learn complicated practices that take a huge amount of discipline.  It is as easy as doing the following exercise.

Gratitude exercise # 2

How to generate a feeling of gratitude

This exercise is simple but effective. However, the more feeling you can generate the bigger the warm glow you will be left with. What you are doing here is helping set up and train new neural pathways that will generate a feeling of Gratitude that runs on automatic piolet.

  1. Place a blank piece of paper and a pen in front of you.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths as you do at the beginning of each of these sessions.
  3. Rate your emotional status on a scale of 1 to 10 were one is totally dismal and 10 is weeping with happiness.
  4. Open your eyes and jot down at 10 things you have to be thankful for – this is a case where more is better. They can be anything: the clothes on your back, your arms, your or legs, your eyes, your bed, your clothes, your house, your pet, your friends, fresh air, the clouds, blue sky – anything that you would miss if it wasn’t there – toothbrush, coffee, chocolates, romantic movies – whatever.
  5. Now for each of the items forcefully assert “I feel so thankful for ______________”or “ I am so grateful that ___________ “ or just  “Thank you for _________________” .  With this exercise it helps to say it out loud if you can.  If you are not in an appropriate space to do that then shout the thankyous it in your head.
  6. Now rate how you feel on the 1 to 10 scale and note any differences between when you started the exercise and when you finished it.

Daily focus

Spend time noticing all the things you have to be thankful for – build up a mental inventory of all the things in your life that you would miss if they weren’t there – even prosaic things like paint or glass or flush toilets.

You will find that as you focus on things that you can be thankful for your day will turn into a smile.

Post Series: The gratitude blogs
Back To Top