Nassim Sana, MC
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The Science Behind Gratitude

The Science Behind Gratitude

Nassim Sana, MCAs children one of the very first things we are taught to say is “Thank you”. We grow up giving gratitude in so many different circumstances, and yet we don’t fully understand the power behind saying thank you. However that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have started researching and working on understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes.

They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

• Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
• Higher levels of positive emotions;
• More joy, optimism, and happiness;
• Acting with more generosity and compassion;
• Feeling less lonely and isolated.

Centers like Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of Giving & ReceivingCalifornia, Davis—launched the multiyear project Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. Researchers are working on expanding the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science. This is to help promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing involve the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

Other researchers such as Dr. Robert Emmons have found that that gratitude is not merely a positive emotion; it also improves your health. As a result, he says, they will experience significant improvements in several areas of life including relationships, academics, energy level and even dealing with tragedy and crisis. Research has also suggested that feelings of gratitude may be beneficial to subjective emotional well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). For example, Watkins and colleagues (Watkins et al., 2003) had participants test a number of different gratitude exercises, such as thinking about a living person for whom they were grateful, writing about someone for whom they were grateful, and writing a letter to deliver to someone for whom they were grateful. Participants in the control condition were asked to describe their living room. Participant who engaged in a gratitude exercise showed increases in their experiences of positive emotion immediately after the exercise, and this effect was strongest for participants who were asked to think about a person for whom they were grateful. Participants who had grateful personalities to begin with showed the greatest benefit from these gratitude exercises. In people who are grateful in general, life events have little influence on experienced gratitude (McCullough, Tsang & Emmons, 2004).

The interesting thing is that both researchers indicate the same outcome for peoples overall quality of life. Now we can see that these two simple words have more power and strength than we could have ever imagined. The big question you may be thinking is in what creative ways I can show my gratitude.

Here are some examples of how you can generate that more in your daily life:

1. Write a thank-you note
2. Thank someone mentally
3. Keep a gratitude journal
4. Count your blessings
5. Pray
6. Meditate

The next time you are not having a good day or feeling a bit down reach out to someone who cares about you and tell them “Thank you for being amazing.”