Check this out. Research in the psychology of gratitude actually shows that practicing gratitude (see Happiness Resolution #3) can increase happiness by as much as 25%.
Here are the highlights.
In his new book “thanks!”, Dr. Robert A. Emmons describes research he carried out with three experimental groups over 10 weeks (Emmons & McCullough, 2003):
- The first group were asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the last week for each of the 10 weeks of the study. This was called the gratitude condition.
- The second group were asked to write down five daily hassles from the previous week. This was the hassles condition.
- The third group simply listed five events that had occurred in the last week, but not told to focus on positive or negative aspects. This was the events or control condition.
People who were in the gratitude condition felt fully 25% happier – they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they even did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than those in the hassles or events condition.
Focussing on gratitude reminds us what we owe to others. This may in turn remind us of our dependence on others and reduce a sense of personal control. Thinking in terms of gratitude may also focus us on the debts we owe to others and, studies have shown, people don’t enjoy feeling indebted to others.
There’s quite a bit more to the study, so if you find yourself raising objections to the interpretation of the result, please read more. For more information you can check my source: PsyBlog.
I’m delighted, but not surprised, that there is a real and measurable psychological boost that comes from the practice of gratitude.