Attitude of Gratitude

It is November and that means Thanksgiving will be here soon.  Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to reflect on the things for which we are grateful.  A recent study at UC Davis (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) showed that developing a grateful attitude can make us happier and healthier.

Before the study, a group of people were evaluated in several ways and given a “Happiness score.”  Participants were then divided into three groups.

Those in the first group were asked to write down five things they were grateful for that had happened in the last week for each of the 10 weeks of the study. This was called the gratitude condition. The types of things people listed were: sunset through the clouds, the chance to be alive, and the generosity of friends.

The people in the second group were asked to write down five daily hassles from the previous week. This was the hassles condition. These people listed things such as: taxes, hard to find parking, and burned my dinner.  The third group simply listed five events that had occurred in the last week, but not told to focus on positive or negative aspects. This was the events or control condition.

After the tenth week, participants were again evaluated to find their “Happiness score.”

People who were in the gratitude condition felt fully 25% happier – they were more optimistic about the future, they felt better about their lives and they even did almost 1.5 hours more exercise a week than they had prior to the experiment.

If we want to increase our happiness, we can take a little time each week from now until Thanksgiving Day to list five things for which we are grateful.  I tried this tonight and here are five things that happened this week for which I am grateful:

  1. I celebrated my first anniversary at my job.
  2. There was an awesome sunrise one morning on my way to work.
  3. I threw my boss a surprise party for her 25th anniversary at our agency and she was really surprised.
  4. John and I went out to a local bar for a drink after work one night and were joined by our adult children for conversation and laughter.
  5. I went for a walk on a beautiful, sunny day.

Five little things for which I am grateful.  Writing them down made me feel really happy, almost giddy.  I see that blessings are overflowing in my life.  I believe that regularly listing things for which I am grateful will help me to be more positive and happier.  Please feel free to comment with your own list of five things.

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