Gratitude Pays Off in Big Ways

by Debbie Gilster

in People Management

Gratitude Pays Off

Thanksgiving is typically one of our primary times for reflection. We think about the people we know, the things we have and how blessed we are with the richness life brings – even in these trying times. This holiday is synonymous with gratitude. It is good to know that most people report being grateful (with an average rating of nearly 6 on a 7 point scale).

We know that gratitude has long been viewed as a key element to happiness, well-being and wholeness by the religious and philosophical community. But what does science say about gratitude? Only recently has the scientific community started to take a closer look at gratitude. Research conducted by Robert A. Emmons of UC Davis and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami have uncovered interesting facts about gratitude and its effects on human fulfillment.

Here are some highlights from one project:

  • 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 other subjects in the experiment.
  • Participants in a daily self-guided exercise focusing on gratitude, compared to those who focused on hassles or on ways they were better off than others, 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, 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.
  • Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

This is great news! 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 pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions.  Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life, but they focus on the positive.

So how can you reap the benefits of gratitude? Start simply by keeping a daily, or at a minimum, weekly list of the things you are grateful for. You can do this in a pretty journal book or a simple spiral notebook. I created a form with an inspiring picture to help me track my own list. Some of my consulting clients are now using this too. (If you are a member of our Effective Results Club – you get this for free.)

This process isn’t easy. “The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings”, says Eric Hoffer. Don’t let that stop you.  As you start incorporating this activity in your life, believe me, you will see the positive effects. My greatest wish for you is that you achieve the productive and balanced life that you dream of. Start with saying what you’re grateful for. Know that I am grateful for you visiting this page!

Source (and gratitude) go to:

Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness: Dimensions and Perspectives of Gratitude; Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough

(This was orginally posted in 2008.)

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Jesslee Cuizon
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