Most religions believe that showing gratitude for the things that we have, is a way of worshipping and showing appreciation to God and to neglect to do so is to become arrogant, self-centred and unholy. Numerous metaphysicians say that there is great evidence to suggest that feeling grateful for something, is the key to attracting more of it into our lives but apart from being, at best a religious or moral code of conduct and at worst what many still consider ‘Woo, woo stuff’, are there are any measurable psychological benefits to gratitude?
Studies done in 2002 revealed that those who practiced gratitude experienced an increase in well-being, agreeability, social activity, spiritual connectedness and even generosity, whilst also experiencing a decline in neuroticism, materialism, and envy. 2002, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, Michael E. Mc Cullough, Robert A. Emmons and Jo- Ann Tsang.
In another study, three groups were asked to keep a weekly journal. Group one was asked to focus on 5 things they are grateful for. Group two, 5 things that had annoyed them and group three was just asked to keep a neutral journal, for the duration of nine weeks. Though these journals were only updated on a weekly basis, the findings were quite significant with group one showing the highest increase in health, exercise, optimism and wellbeing. 2003, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Michael E Mc Cullough, Robert A Emmons
Further studies were done in this area but this time, the groups were asked to keep a daily record and the third group was asked to complete a social comparison journal (whereby they favorably compared themselves to someone else) rather than remaining neutral. Results showed the first group to display the greatest increase in feelings of gratitude, positivity, sociability and even an increased willingness to offer emotional support. 2003, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael E Mc Cullough, Robert A Emmons
This study was extended for an additional three weeks but this time including the measure of connectedness and done with only the first group (the gratitude group) and one other controlled group. The findings revealed that people who practice gratitude experienced an increase in their ability to connect with others. 2003, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael E Mc Cullough, Robert A Emmons
Another study done in 2004 revealed that keeping a daily gratitude journal can even reduce feelings of depression. 2004, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael E Mc Cullough, Robert A Emmons, Jo- Ann Tsang
But why all this emphasis on journal writing? Shouldn’t simply feeling grateful be just as good? Apparently not, studies have shown that one genuine act of gratitude will cause an immediate increase in happiness by 10% and a reduction in depressive symptoms by 35%. Sounds great doesn’t it, however, whilst these results are impressive the positive effects of this act are shown to disappear within 3- 6 months. Whereas, even by keeping a weekly journal, we can produce a steady incline in our happiness and wellbeing, which totals an additional 9% at 6 months. 2005, American Psychologist, Positive Psychology Progress, M Seligman, T Sheen, N park, C Peterson
Unfortunately, all the benefits of gratitude cannot be addressed in this, one article as there are simply too many but if you are experiencing an issue around health, anger, self-esteem, depression, forgiveness or even sleep, practicing gratitude is a powerful tool that you can use to overcome and move forward.
So now that I’ve hopefully got you sold on the idea of practicing gratitude, how do we go about practicing it? The answer lies in numerous findings. Keep a gratitude journal that lists, at least, five things you are grateful for on a weekly or for best results, daily basis.
With the mounting positive feedback regarding gratitude in relations to our health, Psychology and wellbeing, I can safely say that the practice of gratitude isn’t just confined to the realms of religion or metaphysics and has hidden, unexpected benefits that increase with practice. So go ahead, pull back the cover of that empty notebook and embark on a list that will change your world.
“The Struggle ends when Gratitude begins”
Neale Donald Walsch
Written by Angelena Lewis