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The Benefits Of Gratitude


I am sure we can all think of times in our lives when we’ve expressed heartfelt thanks and how positive it made us feel.

Being grateful has one the best feel good factors and scientific research has indicated that it can make us happier and healthier too.

Gratitude and being thankful is an almost universal concept among cultures throughout the world. In fact, nearly all of the world’s spiritual traditions emphasize the importance of giving thanks. Robert Emmons, a leader in the field of gratitude research at the University of California has spent the last ten years researching gratitude. His new book Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier is full of fascinating reading material.

The key messages that Dr Emmons highlights is that the practice of gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. Secondly, that this is not hard to achieve and even a few hours writing a gratitude journal over a three week period can create an effect that lasts six months if not more. The research findings have also indicated that cultivating an attitude of gratitude can bring other health benefits, such as longer and better quality sleep time.

Feeling grateful has a number of other benefits too. Feelings of gratitude are associated with less frequent negative emotions and more frequent positive emotions such as feeling energized, alert, and enthusiastic. You can even experience pleasant muscle relaxation when recalling situations in which you were grateful.

It is apparent that the act of giving thanks can have remarkable impact on a person’s well-being and the best thing is that we are all walking around with this amazing resource.

We can feel thankful in many situations and towards other people and towards ourselves.

It is a mindset that can have a very powerful effect on the way we perceive our reality and ultimately on the way we live our lives. There are some schools of thought that believe that by having an attitude of gratitude we can attract more positive things into our life to be grateful for.

The important thing about having an attitude of gratitude is the quality of the feeling that accompanies it.

The study of gratitude within the field of Psychology only began around the year 2000, possibly because Psychology has traditionally been focused more on understanding distress rather than understanding positivity. However, with the advent of the Positive Psychology movement, gratitude has become a mainstream focus of research.

The main conclusions that have been drawn so far is that grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. 

The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance the feel good factor. Grateful people however, do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life; they simply focus on the potentially positive outcomes that can be manifested. They seek to turn problems into opportunities.

People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks.

It also appears that grateful individuals place less importance on material goods; they are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; they are less envious of others and are more likely to share their possessions with others.

In an experimental comparison study, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer negative physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded neutral life events.

A related benefit was also observed with regards to personal goal achievement.

Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals over a two-month period compared to subjects under other experimental conditions.

A daily gratitude intervention 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 also more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another person.

Research has also identified that children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

Studies also provide evidence that a positive, appreciative attitude enhances the body’s healing system and general health by helping your body to produce more immune boosting endorphins.

When you hold feelings of thankfulness for at least 15 to 20 seconds, beneficial physiological changes take place in your body. Levels of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine decrease, producing a cascade of beneficial metabolic changes. Coronary arteries relax and increase the blood supply to your heart. Your breathing becomes deeper, raising the oxygen level of your tissues.

Gratitude has been the “forgotten factor” in happiness research and Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and Philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being. Through conducting highly focused studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, scientists now hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept. 

Thank You by Liggy Webb.
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