The Science of Gratitude

Happy Woman

The Science of Gratitude

By Karen Morse

Over the years, numerous studies have confirmed a link between a positive attitude and good health. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of Psychology at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life you Want has concluded through her research that “50 percent of individual differences in happiness are governed by genes, 10 percent by life circumstances, and the remaining 40 percent by what we do and how we think.” One way we can cultivate happiness is through the expression of gratitude.

Research shows that people who practice gratitude report:

  • Improvements in mood, as well as lower levels of depression and stress

  • Better physiological health, including enhanced quality of sleep

  • More energy

  • A sense of connectedness with others

  • Greater satisfaction with life in general

Here are a few ways to benefit from the effects of “Thank You” right now:

1. Start a gratitude journal.

Once a week, think of just one thing you are grateful for and write it down. Prefer using your favorite device? No problem, there’s an app for gratitude journaling. Lyubomirsky shared that in her research, some study subjects journaled three times per week while other subjects journaled only once. As it turns people who kept a gratitude list once a week reported they were happier than subjects who wrote in their gratitude journal three times per week. The more specific you are about why you are grateful, the more successful this is. For example, instead of writing that you are grateful for “your daughter,” try writing something like “my daughter hugged me when she came home from school today.” Remember not compare yourself to others. When you do this, negative thoughts creep in. Focus on YOUR life!

2. Experience life with no price tag attached.

Live near the mountains or the water? Lucky you! Take a walk and be grateful for the beautiful scenery around you. Or, get up early one morning and go to a place where you can watch the sunrise. It is a beautiful thing to witness, and you have an opportunity to do it every day. You can even turn a chore into something to feel grateful for. Rake piles of leaves in the backyard. Take turns jumping in the leaves with your kids.

3. Commit to an attitude of gratitude.

Start each day by saying “I am grateful.” My friend has a small bell hanging in one corner of her office at work. Every once in awhile, someone will brush past it as they enter her office, and the bell softly jingles. This is her private reminder to herself to count her blessings. Find something that works for you. Before long, you will find yourself looking for things to write in your gratitude journal!

Karen Morse is a leading Wellness Scientist who develops personalized wellness plans for women and writes a weekly blog, The Wellness Scientist, imparting cutting-edge solutions for healthy living.

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