Studies show that expressing and practicing gratitude leaves people feeling joyful, strong and with more energy. This virtue which seems to be practiced more as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday is something that may be good for our health all year round.
How to reap the benefits of gratitude if it’s not a usual trait? Count your blessings, says Michael McCullough at University of Miami and Robert Emmons at University of California, Davis. Both psychology professors have collaborated in a study that shows gratitude is not only an inborn train, but also a state, which can be changed and even cultivated.
“Count your blessings” was a 10 week study where participants were asked each week to list things they were thankful for, another group was to list things that were a hassle and a third group was to write down neutral events. The results showed the people who kept gratitude journals not only felt better about their lives as a whole, they also exercised more regularly and had fewer physical symptoms like headaches, stomach upset and muscle stiffness.
In another study by McCullough and Emmons they discovered that an intensity effect could be achieved from the previous study by recording positive and grateful things every day. People who participated in this study where shown to feel significantly more energetic, joyful and strong.
Other researchers have made a life’s work out of quantifying what is taught in most religious institutions as basic ethics to live by. Stephen G. Post Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics in the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (SUNY) said, “At a time when there are synthetic compounds that tap into the same brain chemistry that giving does, it may seem that we are perhaps substituting happiness pills for the happiness that flows from pro-social opportunities. The convergence of evidence is striking in support of the hypothesis that benevolent emotions, attitudes and actions centered on the good of others are contributory to happiness, health, and even longevity in the agent of such giving. Benevolence is chiefly about the well-being of recipients, but that said, it can be added that it nourishes the giver as well.”