“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom” – Marcel Proust
Gratitude is defined as the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you. The concept has received increased attention and research over the last number of years and has become a key feature of positive psychology. Indeed, expressing gratitude and thanks is perhaps the easiest way to increase your own happiness and wellbeing. Some of the amazing benefits of gratitude include increased positive emotions, stronger relationships, improved physical health, greater self-esteem, enhanced empathy and improved sleep. Sound too good to be true? Here’s the research to back it up!
Emmons and McCullough (2003) set up an experiment where individuals were divided into three groups. One group were required to keep a journal of negative events in their life, the second group journaled all they were grateful for and the third wrote about neutral life events. Across measures of mood, coping, health, physical symptoms and overall life appraisals, participants who wrote about their gratitude and appreciation consistently reported higher levels of wellbeing, compared to the other groups.
In a similar study, Froh and colleagues (2008) examined the effects of a grateful outlook on early adolescents’ subjective wellbeing and other outcomes of positive psychological functioning. In this research, 221 adolescents were assigned to one of three groups. The ‘gratitude group’ were asked to record five things they were grateful for, the ‘hassles group’ wrote five things that have annoyed or irritated them, while the control group just completed the measures of wellbeing. The results indicated that being grateful was strongly associated with enhanced self-gratitude, optimism and life satisfaction.
Writing a ‘Gratitude Letter’ is a positive psychology technique that has shown to have a significantly positive effect on mood and enhance life satisfaction.
Seamus O’Donnell (BA, MSc)