Scientists have been studying gratitude, and it has some surprising advantages. An attitude of thankfulness has been linked to happiness and good health. In addition, many people believe that if you are thankful for what you already have, this attitude invites additional prosperity. Read on to discover what an attitude of gratitude can do for you.
Many studies have supported the theory that gratitude breeds happiness. Dr. Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!, carried out a study in which he had three groups of subjects. People in the first group, the gratitude group, wrote down five things that they were grateful for in the last week during each of the ten weeks of the study. People in the second group, the hassles group, wrote down five daily hassles from the previous week. People in the third group, the control group, simply listed five events, neither positive nor negative, that occurred in the last week. At the end of the study, people in the gratitude group felt 25% happier than those in the other groups. They felt more optimism about the future, they felt better about the present, and they exercised 1.5 more hours per week than people in the hassles or control groups.
Many other studies have reached similar conclusions about happiness resulting from gratitude. Chris Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, regularly assigned his students an unusual task – to write a thank you letter to someone in their lives. He says, after the exercise, his students feel happier “100 percent of the time.”
Not only does gratitude increase happiness, it has also been linked to better health. Studies show that gratitude may actually boost the immune system. Clinical psychologist Blair Justice, Ph.D., professor-emeritus of psychology at the UT School of Public Health at Houston, states “A growing body of research supports the notion that rediscovering a sense of abundance by thinking about those people and things we love lowers the risk of coronary events.” Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden wrote an article about how gratitude improves health. In it, they state that “Thankful people typically boast better overall health, fewer physical symptoms, higher income, more energy, larger social networks and stronger marriages. They also exercise more and sleep more easily at night. The practice of gratitude may increase the levels of immunoglobin A in your throat and nose, increasing your ability to resist viral infections. Gratitude practices seem to reduce stress hormone levels in the body.”
In addition to making us happy and healthy, many people believe that being thankful for what we have will help us amass more. Wallace D. Wattles wrote a book called The Science of Getting Rich. In it, he states, “The riches they receive will be in exact proportion to the definiteness of their vision, the fixity of their purpose, the steadiness of their faith, and the depth of their gratitude.” Many people believe that by focusing on the riches we already have – such as good health, steady employment, faithful friends, or a loving family – we will attract additional prosperity into our lives. As if a greater power is at work, and wants to know that we appreciate what it has already given us before it will dole out more.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude may or not make us financially wealthy, but it will definitely improve the quality of our lives. So how do we practice gratitude in our day to day lives? It can be as simple as keeping a journal, and listing in it nightly or weekly the things that we are thankful for. It can be a family ritual, not just at Thanksgiving dinner, but every night, to have each person at the table name something they appreciate. You can decide that each time a desire crosses your mind – such as wanting a new car, a new shirt, or a new house – you will choose to focus your energy on something that you already have instead.
There are many ways that you can develop an attitude of gratitude. It is free, and the benefits are extensive. Not only will you improve the quality of your own life, but you will positively impact the lives around you as well, because when you focus on what you have instead of what you want, the sense of contentment will induce joy, and joy is contagious. So develop an attitude of gratitude today, instill one in your family, and watch your wallets grow fatter (because of all the things you will not buy), and your hearts grow happier and healthier, too.