Recently a friend sent me a copy of a blog that she found on SF Gate about research into the act of giving thanks. Just before Thanksgiving, I had written on the subject. So I’m excited to report what science has found. The article by Doc Gurley, entitled “How Giving Thanks Improves Your Health,” reports that “scientists have recently shown…that the frequency, and consistency of your thankfulness may be a key measure of your quality of life.” She reports on various findings:
1) Gratitude can improve your outlook Consciously focusing on your blessings instead of your burdens has been shown to have robust effects on improving life satisfaction and outlook – regardless of your life conditions. The effects are also enduring.
2) What about cranky teens and pre-teens? Gratitude is an important skill to teach your family – a life-lesson that can pay off in numerous areas. Researcher found that early adolescents who were taught to count blessings had enhanced life satisfaction, optimism and school outlook, as well as decreased negative affect.
3) Even monosyllabic teen boys? Studies show that boys may benefit from gratitude expression even more than girls, but that both sets of early adolescents show that expressing gratitude decreases negative physical symptoms of all kinds.
4) Gratitude may be key to forming relationships Studies have linked a sense of gratitude to relationship-forming events, and positive interpretations of life. Even among busy college sorority members, gratitude may be an important first step in the process of making long-term relationships.
5) Counting your blessings may even help you sleep better! Expressions of gratitude are related to better sleep quality, independent of other personality traits.
6) Gratitude can make you more effective at helping others Gratitude was found to help empower people to help those who are disadvantaged in some way – even if it cost the giver. What could be more important in our current economic environment as the extremes of wealth and poverty get larger? On a more selfish note – practicing both empathy and altruism are ALSO associated with not only greater life satisfaction, but even longer life duration – it’s a gift you give yourself when you give to others.
The article has links to these research studies and can be found at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gurley/detail?blogid=114&entry_id=52421.