Psychologists Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, have conducted research on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study divided several hundred people into three groups. Each participant was asked to keep a daily diary. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day, without being told specifically what to write about. The second group was told to journal about their unpleasant experiences. The third group was instructed to make a daily list of the things they were grateful for.
The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, energy, enthusiasm, determination and optimism. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, developed stronger relationships, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving their personal goals.
Dr. Emmons has been studying gratitude for almost ten years and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on gratitude. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology and he has authored a book called Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.
Emmons examines what it means to think and feel grateful, and he invites readers to learn how to put this powerful emotion into practice. Regular grateful thinking can increase happiness by as much as 25%, while keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks results in better sleep and more energy. A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” so you can remain at a higher level of happiness, regardless of outside circumstances. If you’d like a resource to assist you with getting in touch with your gratitude on a daily basis, check out my Gratitude Journal.
In addition, Dr. Emmons’ research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. He further points out that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
I can speak from personal experience about the power of expressing gratitude. In 2005, I had fallen into a deep depression due to two challenging things that happened simultaneously in my life. A friend called to check on me and asked if I would be willing to try something for a week. She asked me to promise her that I would BEGIN my day for the next seven days by sending a card of gratitude to someone I cared about. I reluctantly promised her that I would do this, even though I was not feeling very grateful at the time. To my surprise, at the end of the seven days, my depression had lifted.
Beginning your day by expressing gratitude to someone else sets the tone for your whole day, which has a profound impact on your relationships, your health, and your business. I invite you to begin each day by expressing gratitude to someone you care about. I have been successfully honoring this daily habit for more than 11 years.