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The Healing Power of Gratitude by Vicki Tillman, M.A., L.P.C.

Cheesy, I know–but it is true: being grateful helps you feel better.

The relationship of gratitude to optimism was illustrated in an interesting study done by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami., and reported in the Harvard Health Newsletter.

Participants were assigned to three groups and asked to write a few sentences each week.  One group wrote about things that had happened during the week for which they were grateful.  One group wrote about things that had irritated or displeased them.  One group wrote about events that affected them but with no requirement on whether the topics be positive or negative.

After 10 weeks, those in the first group were more optimistic and felt better about their lives than those in the other two groups.

Dr. Emmons and McCullough also found that the gratitude group (as compared to the other groups):

  • Were also exercising more and having fewer visits to their physicians;
  • Were more likely to have made progress on personal goals (academic and interpersonal);
  • Were more likely to have helped someone else.

Participants of a 21-day version of the research who had neuromuscular disease reported:

  • More days of “high energy positive moods”;
  • A greater sense of  being connected with others;
  • More optimism about life;
  • Better sleep duration and quality.

(Reported by Emmons Lab: Gratitude and Well-Being Research)

So, it might feel a bit cheesy to practice gratitude–but then again, a daily gratitude list might just help you feel better!


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