Our bodies are pretty incredible. And complex. Every year we learn something entirely new about how we work. We learn about the power of the body to heal itself, of the importance of nutritious foods and regular vigorous exercise. We understand how environmental conditions, stress, genetics and tiny daily choices can affect our well-beings, and our life spans. Ongoing research into the impact of practicing gratitude is uncovering yet another layer to the complexity of the human existence. Here’s a dive into the science of gratitude.
Two scientists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough have done several studies on gratitude. In one study, subjects who took note of things they were grateful for reported improved well-being across several categories, compared to those who were tasked with recording hassles or neutral life events. The gratitude group reported feeling more optimism and better physical health, showing more progress in achieving personal goals, and even exercising more than the other two groups.
Counting your blessings
Another study by Emmons and McCullough looked at the impact on adolescents of having a grateful outlook. The research found that young people who literally counted their blessings reported more optimism, life satisfaction, alertness, enthusiasm, determination—you name it, it improved. Perhaps most impressive is the positive relationship between expressing gratitude and how they thought of their school experience, even weeks after the test was done.
Gratitude has also been shown to have a positive impact on our relationships. A 2010 study of couples had each member complete a daily questionnaire for two weeks, noting the thoughtful things they and their partners had done, along with their emotional responses and the general well-being of their relationship that day. In a nutshell, the findings suggest that showing gratitude is associated with a stronger, closer relationship.
Putting it into practice
This is all good news for those looking for ways to boost their feelings of well-being, or feel closer to their partners. And the even better news is that practicing, thinking and expressing gratitude is not expensive or difficult. It can be done on a daily or weekly basis by keeping a physical journal by your bedside, or even a Word document on your computer. Simply record a few things you are grateful for—a good deed or a person whose positive efforts you admire.
You can take it outside the notebook as well. Try writing thank-you notes—even one a month. The great thing about gratitude is that it’s all up to you—and that’s something to be grateful for.
How do you show gratitude, and how has it impacted your life? Feel free to share in the comments section below!
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