Psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough have done research on gratitude. In one study they asked participants to write a few sentences each day focusing on a particular topic.
One group was asked to write about things for which they were grateful for. Another group was asked to write about things that bothered or displeased them. A third group was told to focus on events that had affected them in general (neither positive or negative).
After 10 weeks of writing, the group with the focus on gratitude were happier and more optimistic than their counterparts in the other groups.
It came as a surprise that they also exercised more and had fewer trips to the doctor than the people writing about negative events.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that gratitude promotes health and happiness. We know that our mind has a lasting effect on our bodies. When our minds are stressed-out, our bodies will begin to show that stress. Likewise, when our minds focus on positive thoughts and emotions—our bodies will have a positive response.
But have you thought of gratitude as preventative medicine? Maybe you should!
A gratitude practice can be an easy addition to your daily routine. Consider one or more of the following:
- A nighttime gratitude journal with a few entries added before bed every night
- A practice of “counting your blessings” or mentally acknowledging the blessings in your life
- Letters, notes and cards of gratitude to the people who have helped and supported you
- A prayer of gratitude
- A mindfulness meditation on the subject of gratitude or the many areas of “good” that you see
Any of these can be a simple way to acknowledge the the many good things going on in your life.
When we focus on gratitude, the petty resentments and troubles of the day fade into the background. Our hearts and minds open to more possibilities when we focus on the positive side of our lives.
Of course there’s another reason to express our gratitude for the positive things going on in our lives: it just feels good!