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Science reveals that showing gratitude makes us happier

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/21/22

There are so many benefits of being thankful and this is a good time to recommit to the practice.

When everyone sits down to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, if they have a true feeling of gratitude, they’ll actually be doing themselves a favor, according to studies reported in the Daily Health Post.

As scientists have discovered, the very act of feeling grateful is beneficial for our health. One study, led by psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami, relied on feedback from three groups of people on the physical effects of practicing gratitude.  What they learned is that the brain responds to genuine feelings of gratitude. So when you’re telling your kids to say “thank you and mean it,” you’re doing them a favor. 

During their research, the psychologists asked the different study groups to record different information: the first were asked to keep a daily gratitude journal, the second group of participants were asked to note things that had bugged them that day, and the final group were asked just to record feelings from that day.

After ten weeks the researchers could assert that those who’d expressed daily gratitude were more positive and optimistic than the other groups. They were also more physically fit with fewer trips to the doctor than the other two groups.

This positive feedback is all very encouraging, but further studies have shown more tangible effects of gratitude on the individual. First, individuals who practice gratitude feel less anxiety and therefore get a better night’s sleep. And further still, this improved sleep and less stress also pays off by reducing the chances of heart failure.

With the brain the complex muscle that it is, there are even more positive effects of gratitude. Scientists found that one of the neurochemicals released by the act of gratitude is the pleasure hormone, dopamine. And what’s even better is that individuals can experience these positive responses once more by reliving the emotion. From the Daily Health Post article, 

“A simple gratitude writing intervention was associated with significantly greater and lasting neural sensitivity to gratitude–subjects who participated in gratitude letter writing showed both behavioral increases in gratitude and significantly greater neural modulation by gratitude in the medial prefrontal cortex three months later,” studies found.

This has also been said to have a positive impact on adolescents who express gratitude. The positive feeling gained by feeling grateful seems to create a feeling of self-worth in a teen as well as compassion for others according to a report in Frontiers. So it’s a practice you should encourage in any teen so that they can look out for others while also keeping themselves on a positive path in those oft-troubled years.

Expressing gratitude can also be useful in a marriage. Instead of nit-picking and criticizing, when you take the time to show gratitude to your spouse you not only make them feel valued, you also gain pleasure, as detailed in this report in the Clinical Psychology Review.

So on this Thanksgiving Day when you’re sitting around the table remembering what you are thankful for, think about making this a daily habit you do either as an individual, or as a family, and see all the positive effects gratitude can have on you all.

You can read the entire Daily Health Post article here.

Tags:
Mental HealthThanksgivingVirtue
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