Gratitude is an existing thread weaved throughout many cultures, especially during this time of year. As the world shows gratitude for family, friends, and culture, we explored what research says gratitude is and what the benefits of gratitude are. Continue reading to see what we found.
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What is gratitude?
According to "The Science of Gratitude" published by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, “gratitude is not simply a cultural construct.” Instead, gratitude is a much bigger concept that spans across cultures, religions, and traditions. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of California and the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology states that gratitude is first, "an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received." And secondly, it is recognizing “that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives."
Benefits of gratitude
There are a variety of benefits to being grateful and expressing gratitude. Consider the following.
Mental Health Benefits
Physical Health Benefits
“Stronger bond with the local community” (John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
10% fewer stress-related illnesses (John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
“More satisfying relationships with others and will be better liked by their peers” (John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
Improved blood pressure (Boggiss et al., 2020; John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
Increased optimism (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Improved eating behaviors (Boggiss et al., 2020)
Greater life satisfaction (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Caputo, 2015)
Improved glycemic control (Boggiss et al., 2020)
Increased well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Increased control over asthma (Cook et al., 2018; Boggiss et al, 2020)
Increased happiness (Seligman et al., 2005; Caputo, 2015)
Increased helping behaviors (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Decreased levels of depressive symptoms (Seligman et al., 2005; Mills et al., 2015; Wood et al., 2008; Sun et al., 2020)
Improved physical health (Mills et al., 2015)
Decreased use of negative emotional words (Wong et al., 2015)
Reduced fatigue (Mills et al., 2015)
Increased overall mental health (Wong et al., 2015; Mill et al., 2015)
Improved heart health (Mills et al., 2015)
Reduced feelings of loneliness (Caputo, 2015)
Reduced inflammation (Mills et al., 2015)
Increased social bonds (Caputo, 2015)
“Grateful teens are 10 times less likely to start smoking” (John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
Increased social desirability (Caputo, 2015)
Gratefulness can add “up to 7 years to your life.” (John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
Increased perception of social support (Wood et al., 2008)
Increased likelihood to exercise (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; John Templeton Foundation, n.d.)
Reduced stress (Wood et al., 2008)
Reduced physical complaints (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
Reduced anxiety (Sun et al., 2020)
Better sleep (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Mills et al., 2015)
The main takeaway
Gratitude has been studied extensively and has been shown to give those practicing an “attitude of gratitude” a variety of benefits including increased optimism, increased life satisfaction, increased likelihood of exercise, better sleep, and increased levels of happiness, among many other benefits. Through research, we can see that if gratitude is practiced, we can become more grateful and sensitive to feelings of gratitude (Kini, 2016). With this in mind, we can apply a variety of gratitude strategies to our daily lives and take advantage of the many benefits an “attitude of gratitude" can have.
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