Dr. Robert Emmons’s research on gratitude began with a fairly simple experiment, asking one group of students to write down three “benefits” a day for 10 weeks – i.e, enjoying a haircut or a car stopping for them at an intersection. He asked another group to write down three “burdens” a day – a roommate overcooking dinner or not removing the lint from the dryer. A third group wrote down three neutral things a day – describing the living room furniture – for ten weeks.
Hundreds of replicated studies, with diverse populations, and a hundred published articles later, Bob and other researchers have identified the following benefits to a daily gratitude practice. (These make sense. We could take this good news about gratitude for granted, but we can also be grateful for the many dedicated folks who have put gratitude – and even happiness – on the research radar.)
People who have a daily gratitude practice:
- consistently experience more positive emotions
- feel more alert, energetic, enthused, alive
- sleep better
- have lower blood pressure
- are more likely to accomplish personal goals
- more likely to exercise and stick with a self-improvement program like losing weight.
A gratitude practice
- helps block toxic emotions like envy, resentment, regret, hostility, depression
- re-focuses attention away from stress and worry
- brings closure to unresolved traumatic memories
- improves longevity (by 7-9 years)
- strengthens social ties (people feel more connected to people, less lonely and isolated)
- improves a sense of self-worth.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, corroborates these findings in her book, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. She asserts that gratitude:
- Helps us savor positive life experiences
- Bolsters self-worth and self-esteem
- Helps us cope with stress and trauma
- Encourage moral behavior
- Strengthens relationships
- Inhibits comparing with others
- Diminishes negative emotions
- Keeps us from taking joys for granted and thus extends our joy.
Gratitude, in other words, optimizes our functioning as human beings, and provides an essential foundation to our personal well-being.
“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life.”
– Sarah Ban Breathnach