The Science of Gratitude

by | Jul 21, 2020


The state of gratitude offers many benefits to quality of life, and is rooted in psychological research and theory. Practicing gratitude isn’t just about writing a thank you note for a birthday gift, or saying thanks when a stranger holds the door for you, although those are important, too. Gratitude is an unwavering appreciation for all the good in our lives. It’s a lifestyle and a choice.

Through gratitude, focusing on the good magnifies the goodness in our lives. We focus on the good and appreciate it for all it is, rather than being preoccupied with the negatives, which is reminiscent of stoicism. It’s a way to tap into our mindfulness as we realize we’re part of a bigger picture. It can strengthen spirituality and bring us closer to our beliefs. Overall, adopting a gratitude mindset will change your life for the better, though it takes some work to get there. 

Psychological Substantiation

A well developed topic in psychology is gratitude’s association with greater happiness and satisfaction in life. According to Harvard Health, grateful people feel more positive emotions and relish good experiences. They also improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Psychologists, Dr. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. McCullough of the University of Miami conducted a study in which half the participants regularly journaled their gratitude. The other half of participants wrote down things that made them unhappy or annoyed, rather than things they were grateful for or happy about. 

After 10 weeks, the ones who practiced gratitude reported being significantly happier and feeling better mentally and physically. Statistically, they also had been exercising more, living healthier and made less visits to the doctor than their counterparts. While correlation doesn’t prove causation, this study and the numerous studies like it suggest a grateful life is a happier life. 

Other studies suggest that in relationships where individuals express gratitude clearly and often, both felt more positive about the other person and showed more signs of a healthy relationship. This power of gratitude applies to all types of relationships we need to cultivate in our lives. And like gratitude, our relationships are one of the biggest factors in determining our happiness.

Tips for Living in a State of Gratitude

  • Be vocal about it. Don’t keep it internalized, but speak it whenever you get the chance. Whether it’s to a loved one or a passing stranger, the grateful energy you put out will be returned to you. The same goes with negativity, so watch out for what you’re giving off around others.
  • Start small. Start by setting an alarm in your phone and thinking of three things you’re happy with so far in your day. It can be as small as the latte you picked up on the way to work, or as big as the fact that you got up to see another day. 
  • Practice makes perfect. Like anything else, once you do it enough it becomes second nature. With practice, you’ll automatically start to frame situations positively because you’re trained to think of the good before the bad. Don’t you want that weight lifted off your shoulders?

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